Editor’s note: Here are some past thoughts about living a Fourth away from home, from 4July2009. A new post will be coming soon.
Regular readers of AnthonyGanzer.com may be surprised by this, given my frequent jaunts to Europe over the last few years, but this is my first “Fourth of July” not on American soil. The “Fourth” has taken its hits as a holiday just as others have. Christmas was adorned with Santa and commercialism, Easter with rabbits and biologically inaccurate eggs, and the “Fourth” has its customary PBS concert specials and sales on charcoal briquettes–the things on which freedom was built, of course. And who can forget the elaborate fireworks displays, and toddlers running around with “harmless” sparklers in the front yard.
But even those subtle remembrances to our country’s founding are absent here in Germany, though a faint sense of patriotism still wafts in the air.
If you were to ask me about fireworks in Germany I could ease your mind by relaying: fireworks seem to be shot off every night, for many reasons/non-reasons. Last night a bunch of drunk neighbors shot off industrial-grade fireworks while screaming drunk wishes of goodwill toward one another. I would love to think this was an act of one NATO ally to another remembering the struggle against the British empire, but I can’t say for sure. Bruce Springsteen is in town…maybe the pyrotechnics were in celebration of the “Boss.”
I take the “Fourth” a little more seriously than other Americans might…or more diplomatically I should say I take more of a global view of the holiday. At its core, the “Fourth” is meant to be a celebration of the founding of our nation–the events which, when patched together, form an unlikely yet compelling story of revolution and democracy. It matters not that the signing of the Declaration of Independence wasn’t a grand “July 4th” event…nor that many folks probably don’t know that. There’s a day to celebrate, and that should be good enough right?
Maybe. But I was one of those people who listened intently to the Revolution portions of junior high history class. I remember that Crispus Attucks was the first casualty of the revolution, dying in the Boston Massacre at the hand of trigger-happy British soldiers. Maybe I remember Crispus also, because then-lawyer John Adams said Attucks was just part of a motley crew of saucy boys and Irish teagues. Hard to believe those saucy boys and Irish teagues (derogatory term for Catholics) may have pushed the revolutionary movement over the edge. Their actions are more memorable than charcoal sales.
Sometimes the best thing to do while abroad, is rest and take it all in.
This day to me is not just another day to ignore history. Being abroad, things seem to have an even stronger tone and importance. The US Embassy the other day issued a warning for Munich, saying groups may be looking for Americans in bars on the “Fourth” to settle scores for earlier drunken shenanigans. And then today, the US warned Germany of possible terror attacks around the time of Germany’s elections in September. I think it’s important for any citizen abroad to realize what news is involving and surrounding his or her country. Despite a person’s presumed plausible deniability, everyone carries a bit of national baggage. This fact was especially obvious in the many times I had to tell Europeans, “No, all Americans don’t think exactly like George Bush,” or even more controversially for said Europeans, “Yes, Obama has the popularity, but I’d like to see what he does with it.”
Because I’m a journalist I tend to see more of the bad news, than good. And being a father, I now look for as much information as possible to help cope with events in the future. The world is much more complicated than it was during the revolution, and the definitions of friends and foes are no longer clear. The best I can do is to try to be a good all-around person, and representative for my nation.
And though I may not launch fireworks in a drunken stupor, I can still pay respects to the folks who worked to make the U.S. a country which allowed my ancestors to make a better life. So from one Irish teague to all the other saucy boys and gals, this patriotic glass is for you.