The Fourth of July is a traditional day for Americans to flaunt their patriotism. Flags will fly and fireworks will explode in celebration of our nation's independence and ideals.
But this year, it seems, the flags are drooping a bit and it's not just Lawrence's new fireworks ban that is taking some of the sparkle out of our July 4 celebration.
A new, highly publicized movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," is taking aim at our national government and our president's response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The nation is awaiting a final report from the Senate Intelligence Committee that apparently will reveal what the committee's chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., referred to as a "worldwide intelligence failure."
Instant communication sources are bringing the harsh realities of the war in Iraq home in a brutal way that undercuts Americans' resolve to pursue an action that was justified as part of the war on terrorism. Many Americans separate their loyalties by maintaining that they support their troops but not the government whose policy they are carrying out. In its search for patriotic pride, the nation continues to highlight the heroes of World War II, who apparently are the last U.S. soldiers perceived to have been involved in fighting "the good fight."
It's a troubled time that has triggered sharp divisions in the nation. On one hand are those who take an "our nation, right or wrong" stand based on the belief that we must unite against whatever action our government is taking. On the other are people who take advantage of our precious right to free expression to criticize their government in a manner that wouldn't be tolerated in most parts of the world.
Former President Bill Clinton certainly has triggered his share of divisions in America, but he offered an interesting perspective on the nation during his visit to Kansas University last month. America is less than 15 years into the process of finding its role in the new world order created by the downfall of the Soviet Union, he said. The divisions and self-examination we are experiencing now are not unlike those America went through in other significant transitions, including the birth of our nation more than 200 years ago.
The wonderful freedom that we celebrate today has made this a nation strong enough to weather such storms and controversies. The depth of America's current divisions and the inability to meet in the middle to discuss our differences in a civil way concerns many of us, but Americans always have found a way to rally around the ideals that make this nation great.
On July 4, 2004, even with our differences, there are many things about America that we all can celebrate. In honor of the holiday, we all should focus on the strengths that unite us and the freedoms we hold so dear.
It's a wonderful and resilient country, certainly worthy of our celebration and support.
Happy Fourth of July.