By JEFF TOLMAN
Independence Day is my second-favorite day of the year, trailing only Thanksgiving. I really enjoy the celebration of our freedoms as Americans and our thanks to the men and women who have, and are, protecting those freedoms.
Over my life, I’ve had several memorable Fourth of Julys.
The year a spark ignited our whole bag of fireworks at once. We cowered in the car — all the windows rolled tightly up so no projectile could fly in — and watched the night’s collection of fireworks shoot every-which-way for an exhilarating and colorful five minutes or so.
Fourth of July in the Polson, Mont., city park. Listening to the high school band play, and local politicians and veterans speak, then watching the fireworks’ bright colors light up a quintessential American small town.
On Independence Day 2009, three couples ate a lovely dinner and learned it was one of the couples’ 19th anniversary of U.S. citizenship. We heard how meaningful that day in 1980 remains, and the feeling of pride they feel each July 4th. We learned our friends had escaped from a Middle East country just days before notice was given that they were banned from leaving that nation. They spoke of freedoms we Americans take for granted. That we can speak of whatever we want, to whoever we choose, without fear of recrimination.
July 4th reminds me of sitting in the Norman Rockwell Museum, the originals of Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” staring at me from the four walls.
On my right hung “Freedom From Want,” a painting of a scrumptious turkey being placed on the dinner table surrounded by a happy, safe, expectant family.
To my left was “Freedom of Speech,” Rockwell’s painting of the young man rising at a town meeting to give his opinion, knowing he would not be punished, ridiculed or prosecuted for his words, free to say whatever he chose.
Behind me hung “Freedom of Religion,” showing people of many races, creeds and colors, free to worship as they choose, or not at all.
In front of me hung “Freedom From Fear,” the painting of two parents tucking their children in bed, the father holding a newspaper with headlines describing the ongoing World War II action.
As we watched fireworks burst above us in 2009, we six experienced each of those four freedoms. Two people raised Catholic, two Muslim and two Protestant had feasted on a delicious meal, were freely expressing our opinions as we discussed the events of Kitsap County and the world, knowing we would sleep well, and safely in our beds that night.
Norman Rockwell would have enjoyed our Independence evening as we celebrated the 223rd birthday of a nation and the 19th anniversary of two of its proudest citizens.
I hope each of you have a wonderful Independence Day, and that each bursting firework reminds you of the freedoms we have in this great nation, and those extraordinary men and women who protect them.
— Copyright Jeff Tolman 2013. All rights reserved.