The Van Beek 4th of July Train

United we stand/Divided we fall/The Mighty Bulldogs/Will conquer all!

It's not often that a high school cheer emerges from the subconscious to affect waking thoughts. And maybe I'm just echoing the sentiment expressed in this morning's yoga class: we are all more alike than we are different. But I can't help thinking that the approaching holiday has something to do with it. Independence Day, celebrating the birth of a nation 'conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal'*, is supposed to be a time to come together as a nation, forget our partisan differences, and revel in our good fortune to be be citizens of this great nation. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.

The origins of our current holiday are colonial. The British colonies naturally celebrated the King's birthday; when the American colonists declared independence in 1776, they changed these celebrations to mock funerals for King George on July 4, recognizing the end of monarchy and ascension of individual liberty. Later, George Washington celebrated the day by issuing additional rations of rum to his troops. Massachusetts was the first state to formally adopt the holiday. Eventually, the celebration turned into general merriment: parades, fireworks, food, and festivities. What it has generally not been is a time for divisive, partisan politics.

While extra rum is rarely a bad idea, in my opinion the best way to celebrate the Glorious Fourth is with friends and family, good food and drink, and an awareness of the incredible luck that made us Americans. The store will be closed on Independence Day, giving both Cassie and me the chance to do just that. However you spend your holiday, please lift a glass or two to friends, family, and countrymen. We'll be doing the same.

* Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address,