July 5, 2012 —
There’s a very metaphorically patriotic debate going on in Narrowsburg over the effect of the fireworks on the local bald eagles. There is a nest on the flats and two out of the last three years, it seems the July 4th fireworks have caused eagles to fall from the nests. It’s basically the bald eagle (federally protected and national mascot) versus the fireworks (beautiful patriotic tradition of exploding lights and loud noises). The only way it could get any more patriotic would be to add the good old stars and stripes into the mix somehow.
To be honest, most of what I know about July 4th and Independence Day I know from the Broadway show “1776.” “1776” is a musical that follows John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson about the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. Spoiler alert: they sign it.
They debate what the national bird should be: Franklin wanted the turkey, Adams the eagle, Jefferson the dove. Adams wins and they sing a song about it. (Had either Franklin or Jefferson won the debate, fireworks wouldn’t be a problem in Narrowsburg.)
It’s not that I don’t remember learning about this stuff in school. On the contrary, I remember doing it multiple times at different levels. American History was pounded into our brains from an early age. I have fond memories of a three-day class trip to Philadelphia when I was in first grade.
When I was in high school, I was in “1776” at the Forestburgh Playhouse. I played Joseph Hewes of North Carolina. “North Carolina yields to South Carolina,” was my line—I said it twice.
And here’s what sticks out to me about the signing of the Declaration that doesn’t usually get talked about on July 4th. The second act of the show is largely dedicated to the massive debate that was going on between the North and the South about slavery. In the end, they removed all mention of slavery and it was an issue that the country continued to debate for almost a hundred years and beyond. (I’ve recently seen “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire,” so I am feeling refreshed on this topic as well.)
They removed the mentions of slavery to unite around the Declaration of Independence. The heated debate led to unity and compromise. It was basically about everyone getting into the room and figuring it out together.
It’s usually hard for me to get patriotic, especially around July 4th. I don’t enjoy the commercialized patriotism: flags for sale and red, white and blue beer cans. It feels especially forced during an election year when everything seems split in two.
But stepping back and looking at the country, I can get excited about the debate that is constantly raging. We are constantly striving for more—for better. These days it’s a little frustrating to see the very natural debate on topics fall into political spinning as did the Supreme Court decision about health care last week.
Everything is played politically and spun. The coming months will almost certainly bring even more partisanship and heated debate. Hopefully, it will be the kind that can eventually band us together and lead to compromise.
And so we are back to the metaphorical eagle vs. firework debate. Is there a way for both to exist? Would the presence of a National Park Ranger on the river in front of the eagles’ nest during the fireworks to monitor for any eagle difficulties suffice for both sides? Just don’t throw those red white and blue cans in the river.