50 Shades of Red, White and Blue

6-26-12

 

The Fourth of July is one of those automatic holidays – there are some hard-wired traditions that Americans cherish, therefore supplying some semblance of uniformity no matter where you are. We have parades, picnics, fireworks (usually in that order). There’s live music – in big cities, often you’ll get the Philharmonic to accompany the rockets’ red glare over the river fireworks extravaganza. Often there will be dramatic readings of the Declaration of Independence by actors in period clothes.

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, over 14,000 public fireworks displays will light up our nation’s skies on the night of the Fourth. And no matter where they take place, we’ll all say the same thing – “OOOH!” and “AHHHH!” It’s the American way.

It is truly our most national of holidays, as we celebrate our independence – together. We wrap our towns in red, white and blue bunting and sing all of those songs we learned in grade school together and well up with national pride for what it means to be an American. There is comfort in our shared tradition.

Yet, for as United as our States are, we can’t help but put in a little local color into that bunting.

Injecting localism into our celebrations often is a function of some particular characteristic endemic to that market alone. Reenacting the Boston Tea Party, gazing upon the actual Liberty Bell, visiting the Washington Monument and its brethren in Washington, DC, or taking in the majesty of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota – these are all things that only can happen in one place alone.

But it isn’t just those iconic places that create local connections with Americana. Sometimes, all it takes is some local flavor. There will be beach parties in Miami and San Diego, clambakes in Boston and Baltimore, and barbeques nearly everywhere, but especially in Texas, Memphis, and St. Louis. Now and then, you’ll probably also find a hot dog eating contest or two – especially if you happen to be in Coney Island.

The amazing thing is that your local television station is there to capture it all, and every second of it screams “America”. A viewer in apartment 4-H in Manhattan, New York may not experience the deep-fried breakfast cereal from a 4-H fair in Manhattan, Kansas, but they’ll certainly accept it as something uniquely American. Our parade might look like any other parade, but it’s still “our” local parade. And if you hurry, you might just see your fireworks a second time, on your late local news.

On the Fourth of July, local pride lives in peaceful coexistence with national pride. We all have our local identity with a shared national heritage. Ultimately, we are united, these States. But one thing’s for sure – there’s nothing more American than local Americana.


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