Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Don't rain on my parade

Hello patriots and Happy Fourth of July! I hope that you're all enjoying celebrating America. If you're planning on setting anything on fire today (grills, sparklers, fireworks, your deck), please make sure to keep a fire extinguisher handy.

I've been watching a lot of presidential/America rocks movies this week. Every station seems to be airing a thematic movie. I've re-watched Independence Day and The American President and watched the G.I. Joe movie for the first time. That was a mistake. Seriously, who thought that movie was a good idea? Honestly, I would have preferred a camp themed movie marathon. I never went to camp but I love movies about camp. My ideal camp movie marathon would include Camp, Ernest Goes to Camp, Camp Nowhere, and Wet Hot American Summer. I love any movie with a really good "end of camp talent show" sequence. Let's work on making this happen next year.

I consider myself a civics geek (or maybe neek as my friend Jessica would say). Not a government geek but a civics geek. Don't get me wrong, I love to talk politics and get involved in debates and I read  a lot about legislation, policy, and government history. The main difference (to me) is that I don't let my politics interfere with my love of participation in the great civics experiment that is America. People forget about participation. Democracies really don't work if you don't participate. Or rather, they work but they don't work for pretty much anyone. We tend to let other people participate for us and then we complain about it and wonder why things aren't working the way we wanted them to work. And yes, it's also very American to complain about the President and Congress and anything else government related but that's sort of the point. Your complaints have more meaning if you actually participate in the process.

I taught 9th and 12th grade Civics which should have been a dream come true for me. Teaching young people about the American government system and how exciting it is to participate, count me in! Clearly, I underestimated my students' enthusiasm for this topic. Seniors don't care about anything. They are ready to graduate and move on to the next exciting chapter of their lives. It doesn't matter that they're all of age to do things like vote, sign up for Selective Services, pay taxes, and serve on a jury. And the freshmen? It's not that they don't care, it's that none of it makes a lot of sense yet because their participation is rather limited. Fourteen year olds can't participate in ways that older Americans can so it was a struggle to make it relatable for them too. I spent a lot of time talking about what they could do - volunteer in their community, be responsible for their actions and words, be informed, and generally be nice to people. I also showed movies and recordings of important speeches in hopes that they'd get it. I'm sure at least one of them did.

Today is not about politics or about healthcare or education reform or about the President's personal life. It's about the spirit of the nation and its people. It's about participating in whatever way you'd like to participate. You and I might not agree on things politically but I'm certain we agree on several important things about today:
  1. Parades are awesome
  2. Fireworks are pretty (loud, but pretty)
  3. Everything tastes better from a grill
  4. It's okay to get a little weepy when you hear patriotic music
  5. Mid-week holidays are slightly surreal but sort of awesome all at the same time
I got to celebrate that today by going to the second largest Fourth of July parade in the US right here in Alameda (according to Wikipedia and seven people who live in or have lived in Alameda-so it is clearly true). This particular event encapsulates civic pride in so many ways. I think photos would be a better way to illustrate this. Enjoy!

I have no idea why the first paragraph is being weird. Oh well...


  1. The parade looks awesome! Especially love the shark guy.

  2. There were other people dressed as sea creatures too; they're just not in this picture. There was also a group of organic backyard farmers dressed as fruits and veggies. And the NRA and the Girl Scouts. It was amazing.

    Hope your 4th was fun too!