One of the benefits of living where I do is that the Weyerhaeuser family lives across the lake and has one of the best fireworks displays you can imagine. Everyone else on the lake aims to make a lot of noise. The the big guns, however, are always the Weyerhaeusers, who set off hundreds of shells between dark and about 11:30.
We walk down to the lake through the one yard where people allow folks who don’t live right on the lake to go and sit and watch. This year, we had some of the neighbor kids with us, because their father, an Iraq War (currently known, I believe, as “Operation Enduring Freedom”) veteran was having a really fucked night. The sound of fireworks remind him of incoming fire in Iraq. So, we loaned him some earplugs (you get used to this when you marry an opera singer—earplugs are mandatory for most loud events) and took his wife and kids along to watch the fireworks. His two step-sons said “The fireworks make Joe remember being shot at by bad guys in Iraq.” I handed out sparklers.
One has to wonder about a country that continues to produce new generations that have bad flashbacks during its independence celebrations. You can love a country like this, because it has done great things—the charm of fireworks is that they signify battles that grow increasingly remote in memory each year. But when your leaders are wasting lives on a war they manufactured based on false evidence and trumped up ideologies, the holiday takes on a sinister aspect, haunted by the ghosts of wars present and future. Folks all around the lake are whooping and yelling and sounding their boat horns while the guy who actually fought for the country plugs his ears and tries to resist the urge to duck and cover. He doesn’t seem to regret his service, but we’ve certainly taken his service for granted, since the invasion of Iraq was conducted based on falsehoods and elaborate generalizations.
Conservatives may argue that each generation that “pays the price of liberty” is a great one. I’d say that any generation that doesn’t put the preservation of future generations’ peace and peace of mind first has failed. In our day, that would be the generation represented by Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.
Had the United States treated Saddamn Hussein as the kind of threat he really was and worked with the U.N. to force oil money to be delivered to the Iraqi people in the form of food and health care, enforcing the embargoes that worked through the 1990s, then it would be a peaceful holiday and some tens of thousands of men and women wouldn’t have had their Independence Day turned into a relived nightmare. And my neighbor is waiting his orders to go back.
Read Britt Blaser’s memory of a hard landing in Vietnam. The leaders of this country don’t have an inkling of the horror they’ve created, as every one of them evaded service in the war that taught most Americans who were alive then the lessons of mistaking one small fight that glorifies a commander-in-chief for the more important battle for freedom.