Editor’s Desk

Column: Happy birthday, America!

June 27, 2014 

WHITFIELD.022712.TI

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

How do you blow out 238 candles on a single cake? Heck, how do you get them all lit without the first candles burning the cake before you can get the flame puffing from the 238th candle?

Scientists somewhere are working on those questions, no doubt thanks to a government grant.

There aren’t likely to be too many cakes floating around next Friday when this country celebrates the 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

But Americans will celebrate nonetheless. Perhaps more than most holidays, Independence Day feels like a holiday. Most places are closed. There are parades. There are fireworks, for goodness’ sake. It’s like a big day-long party that doesn’t end until the color from the last rocket has faded from sight.

And more than on most holidays, people of different political persuasions will agree on the greatness of our nation. Even Democrats and Republicans in Congress will hold hands and sing the national anthem. (OK, maybe that’s too much to expect.)

In Wake County, Garner residents will gather in a field on what was once Dudley Buffaloe’s strawberry farm and they will sit on blankets and listen to good music until dark when all eyes will turn skyward for an exquisite fireworks display. In eastern Wake County, 10,000 or more will gather at Five County Stadium to watch some baseball and take in another fireworks show. In rural Johnston County, even the little town of Archer Lodge will host its own daylong celebration of baseball, watermelons and, yes, fireworks.

Wendell will enlarge its traditional children’s parade to include veterans. Knightdale is getting in on the act this year with a celebration at its new park, followed by, you guessed it, fireworks.

It is fitting and proper, I believe, to have as many celebrations as one can fit into a single day. After all, 238 years prior, a bunch of frustrated men were putting quill to paper to make a truly astounding assertion. In doing so, they were challenging the otherwise unquestioned authority of a king. Think about that. They were literally sticking their collective tongues out at arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time.

That took some moxie. It’s that kind of moxie Americans have shown time and time again, through war, economic disaster, the failings of our own leaders and, even the hockey rink.

As a nation, the U.S. is still relatively young compared to past world powers like France, England, China and the like. But even if we are only teenagers on the world stage, we’ve taken on the mantle of leadership during times when much more was at stake than just our national future. Consider the challenges that face President Harry Truman as he worked to stitch together a graceful end to World War II. Faced with allies who had much more at stake, America didn’t back down, even when Russia tried to hijack the peace. Consider President Reagan’s curse upon communism. His relentless opposition to leadership without popular support largely brought down an entire system of governance.

Those are just some of the times the U.S. carried its world leader status despite the staggering cost this nation could have borne. And so many other examples abound.

That’s reason enough for a party. Even if the cake can’t handle 238 candles.

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