Tomorrow our nation will celebrate its roots and we ourselves will go in search of a fireworks display. Some of my fondest memories are of lying supine on velvety summer grass, gasping at vibrant hues exploding over my head. Hearing someone’s toddler gasping, Ooooh, wow! Ooooh, wow! over and over again. Watching the wonder on the faces of my young daughters whose delight is conflicted by the frightening noises surrounding them. Bundling everyone back into the car to wait interminably in traffic before making the journey home to the serenity of the woods and the lake.
For some, this day will carry a much different flavor in their hearts. It will be yet one more reminder, on the virtual tail of Memorial Day, of loved ones lost in battle. In my mind these losses are a tragic failure of an adolescent nation that still jumps to posturing rather than reflection, preferring aggression over conciliation.
Freedom isn’t free. Americans have all heard this, ad infinitum. But there are varying degrees of interpretation to the statement. While I’m thinking of the cost in time, energy and “face” while attempting to reconcile differing viewpoints in order to discover peaceful resolution, others have war on their minds. Freedom remains costly as long as innocent lives are at stake, and war ensures lives, innocent and otherwise, will always be held in the balance. Then there’s the more covert loss of innocence: that of too many eighteen year-old recruits with stars in their eyes and determination creasing tender brows, launching into battles they believe to be noble causes. Yet upon returning, few will tell you – those who can bring themselves to speak of experiences on the front lines – that glory was indeed beheld in the taking of towns and trembling human beings. Thus I remain wary and conflicted on national celebration days.
In Hawaii, locals simply love celebration because it means convening family and friends together to enjoy food and festivities and blessed days off work. I love this about the Hawaiian people. Never mind that this is a conquered kingdom; forgive and forget and gather the goodness of what really matters close to your heart. And so it is that we set out in search of fireworks – to join families and peaceful, joyous community who delight in sharing music and laughter and yes, the beauty of exploding lights in the sky. I count my blessings in the grace of living amidst such acceptance and aloha.