The fireworks began early this year. Nearly two weeks before the Fourth of July, neighborhoods were ablaze with fiery displays and ceaseless booms. Pandemic weary revelers were determined to celebrate a freedom and independence they felt they had sacrificed while in isolation in an effort to slow the insidious virus that had no cure.
It is our first Independence Day since the COVID-19 pandemic confined us to our homes. Then worldwide protests erupted over lingering racial inequality and continued disparity in law enforcement’s treatment to people of color. The protests brought people out of isolation and together. All were willing to risk their individual health to speak up for equality and individual freedom. There was no thought given to the danger inherent in their choices or the consequences of their behavior.
There is no argument that the world has changed dramatically in the first six months of 2020. Restrictions and isolation have provided an abundance of time. We have been able to observe, reflect, reconsider, and reevaluate our priorities as well as our place in the world and the contributions we are making. I often question whether we will ever return to the life we had known or regain the status quo.
Perhaps it is best that we do not. Perhaps we had become far too complacent. I wonder if we had become too insular in our thinking, our perspectives, and our importance as we each focused on our own needs, acquisitions, and personal schedules. Perhaps we had become isolated – in our jobs, our schools, our communities, and our activities, and stopped noticing that we were each interconnected and had an impact upon one another. Perhaps we had become just a bit too entitled.
Public displays of fireworks are forbidden in most areas. We must continue to social distance and fight together against this relentless pandemic. It is difficult to enjoy the customary symbols of this celebration when wearing masks. However, Independence Day still represents freedom and it is an important day of remembrance.
Yet with freedom, comes responsibility. We must celebrate this important American tradition by grilling with our immediate family in our own backyard, or lighting fireworks in a safely confined and restricted area of our neighborhood.
Let us remember the important values upon which our country was founded. Let us recall the remarkable framework put in place by our founding fathers. Let us make a personal vow to not only remember free and equal, but to model that behavior for all. That may mean wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from one another or taking time to appreciate our differences. We are different in many ways, but we are all still Americans, and we are all still human beings.