When I was a youngster, we lived in Arizona. There were no parades. Or cookouts. Or any commemoration of the day that I remember. Perhaps it was because we lived in tiny villages. Perhaps it wasn't such a big deal before it became a commercial vehicle. I bet if there was no money to be made from it, the Fourth of July would sink back into the obscurity of private backyard celebrations with sparklers and water sprinklers.
Patriotic posts notwithstanding, there really isn't much patriotism marking our national birthday. Mostly, it's dwindled into a day off work that serves for an excuse to terrify the neighborhood with obnoxious fireworks and excessive drinking.
I like a cookout as much as the next person, though not as much as I've aged. I confess I enjoy the AC on a hot steamy day and find the summer pests like flies and mosquitoes generally annoying. But all of that is just window dressing for a day that seems to have lost it's meaning. Like most of our holidays here in the states, we've forgotten their origins in our rush for pleasure and excess. I wonder if this is deliberate ignorance, or simply more comfortable than true remembrance.
Some folks bemoan the lack of respect for the flag or the national anthem or other patriotic issues, but the truth is more subtle than that. As a nation, we've forgotten what this date was chosen to commemorate. If we were to ask the average citizen why we celebrate, most of them wouldn't be able to explain any particulars past the bare event denoted as our nation's birthday. MOST have no idea what the Declaration of Independence is all about. They don't know the real sacrifices made by the men--and women--who dared to stand up for what they believed to be right.
In the hullabaloo of fireworks and cookouts, we've forgotten why we have this holiday. It isn't because we're the greatest or the most powerful or have the biggest military (though I do offer my humble gratitude for all those who serve--present or past!) This day should be a remembrance of the fifty-six men who laid it all on the line back in 1776. They were men who had no idea what would come of their actions. I feel certain they would be most astonished at the spectacle we've turned it into today.
If you would truly honor them, then take time to gather your family and friends around you and read the Declaration of Independence aloud. Read the names. Honor them with a moment of silence and respect. Without that, the rest is empty rhetoric and hotdogs.