Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

July 4th or Independence Day in the USA commemorates the founding of the country after winning its independence from Great Britain through the American Revolutionary War. Certain aspects of this war, also called the American War of Independence, have become iconic: the Declaration of Independence, the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere's Ride, the Battle of Bunker Hill, Washington Crossing the Delaware, and numerous visual images of the stars and stripes, battles, and uniforms.

Most of us easily recall that Indian tribes fought on both sides, and that some in America remained British Loyalists, but many of us forget that there were other allies on each side. With the American revolutionaries were France (always happy to fight Britain, and especially to take over its other colonies), India, and the Dutch Republic (also involved in wars with Britain, as duelling colonial powers). The British had allies among a number of principalities that would later be part of Germany. The war extended northward into Canada, then a British colony, and southward into the West Indies. Through attacks by French against British holdings in other countries, it spread further abroad as well. I only learned relatively recently that African Americans served on both sides, and were among those resettled, as free men, in the British colonies that would become Canada. The Siege of Yorktown effectively ended the war, and the Treaty of Paris 1783 finalized it.

I have never been to the USA for the 4th of July weekend, but the celebrations are iconic too: parades, fairs, picnics, barbecues, fireworks. I have been in other countries with American expats, and appreciate that they are far more inclined to mark the day than Canadians are to celebrate Canada Day abroad, though some do. The most memorable 4th of July for me was one I spent in France as the guest at a picnic/barbecue held by the members of a very famous American modern dance group which was touring and performing in the city where I was staying. This was during the same summer in which I had my other cross-cultural adventures, as described in  Cross Cultural Misunderstandings--Part I Truth, Lies, and Laundry,  and  Part II Watch What You Eat!.

 I met the Americans in the city I was normally based at,  in an outdoor swimming pool, where I was busy hanging upside down and doing lengths of synchronized swim skills. I finally looked over after much commotion, to see 3 African American men doing extremely respectable imitations. Ah, dancers, that explained it, elite dancers...even better an explanation.

The dance group was mixed race, and mixed  single and with family, so it was a fun get together with children playing about, and sharing travel stories. There was touch football (of the non-soccer type), as I recall. I was very struck by the efforts they went to in order to reproduce this celebration in France, and while performing and touring. Of course, they were very friendly and casually hospitable, as Americans tend to be, so I felt very at ease. No fireworks that I recall--I had to wait for the 14th of July for that, Bastille Day, the birth of the Republic of France, after its revolution against its monarchy and aristocracy.

The photos here, like those in the post Happy Memorial Day!, were all submitted by various Americans for a "photo assignment" on Ree Drummond's award winning blog The Pioneer Woman. They are my favourites out of many other excellent ones representing America in the lead up to Independence Day in the USA, July 4. More can be seen at The Pioneer Woman, Photography, in five daily groups from June 28 to July 2, with the finalists and the winner announced on July 3 and July 4, respectively. The assignment was described in the announcement as originating from a commentator's suggestion:
“How about America? Americana?
Red, white and blue. Fireworks, etc.
What images, beyond the flag, symbolize America to you?”
The results are wide ranging in specific theme and style. My own most favourite opens this post: a spectacular recreation of the Pulitzer winning (1945) photo Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, after the Battle of Iwo Jima between American and Japanese forces in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. The story of the original photo is compelling, and I find the innovation of using children silhouetted in front of a backdrop of heightened colour compelling as well. Others, though, are very close seconds to this favourite amongst favourites.

Happy Birthday USA!

Happy 4th of July!

What are your favourite photos here? Which tops the list?
What symbols do you think best represent the USA?
What are your favourite images of America?
How will you/did you celebrate the 4th of July this year?
What traditions do you have on this day?
If you are new to the USA, have you been invited to participate in a 4th of July celebration, or have joined in one of the public ones?
What was it like?
How does it compare to national celebrations in your own country?
Any other thoughts, comments, experiences?

Related Posts:
Happy Birthday Canada!: From Colony to Constitutional Monarchy--A Model for MENA? Saudi?
Canada at 143 years young: The Presence of Saudis, Arabs, and Muslims
Canada-USA: We May Look Similar, But... (Saudis and Others--students, immigrants, and observers--take note)

September 23--Saudi National Day/ Inauguration of KAUST
Saudi National Day/ Inauguration of KAUST: Update
Royal Saudi/non-Saudi Marriages and Their Children: Introduction (includes information on the founding of Saudi by King Abdul Aziz in 1932 and previous Saudi States, along with links to further references)


Susanne said...

What a beautiful post! I was glad to hear of your own July 4th adventures in France! You want me to pick a favorite among these shots? Wow, that's tough. I love the simplicity of some (the pie, apples in the dish) and the awesome nature shots (whoa, scary dark sky!). The diaper-clad babies chowing down on watermelon was adorable. Love the action of the bull rider. And the first one is fantastic! Thanks for sharing these!

coolred38 said...

My father was not a big holiday celebrator...which meant by association neither were we....however, many of our 4ths passed with him at home asleep and my sisters, mother and I at the town park enjoying the picnic, games and fireworks with everyone else. (we lived in very small towns throughout my childhood). My biggest memory of ALL these 4ths were the truly horrendous sunburns I got....some to the point of serious blistering, sleepless nights, trips to the hosp. No matter how much sunscreen I put on...did no good. Any amount of sun burned me to a crisp as a child. Owie.

Now, since Ive been out of the states for 23 years...the very last 4th I celebrated was 20 years ago while visiting my family and pregnant with second child. Oldest child was barely 2 and we took a little float on a floaty in the river...I have a pic of it and its wonderful. Me fat (pregnant)and sunburned and daughter chubby...dipping her toes in the water looking bemused.

Today will be my first, and for my older boys, their first as well, to really celebrate and enjoy ourselves in a very long time.

favorite photo is the barn type building with the dark sky.

Additional thought...Americans will never truly appreciate the freedoms they enjoy until they live/visit a country that doesnt automatically recognize those rights as inherent. The rights we enjoy in America were hard fought for (and for some still rights comes to mind)...but in many many other countries...rights are still only a dream...and so the fight continues.

Consider that while drinking your beer, eating your bar be cue...and possibly ending up in the ER this wonderful 4th for mixing beer drinking with explosive flammable objects.

Just saying.

Chiara said...

Susanne and Coolred--thank you for sharing your diverse American perspectives.

Susanne-it is indeed difficult to choose among these photos. I was very glad to have that 4th of July experience in France since better than anything it spoke to the meaningfulness of the day for regular Americans! Thanks for your comment.

Coolred-thank you for sharing, and I hope you had a really great 4th of July for your first one back, and that all your children enjoyed it.

That photo with its colours, including the ominous sky is striking.

True, traveling is a good reminder of the positives and negatives at home, and how some have so many fewer freedoms than others.

Thanks for your comment.

My apologies to you both for the delayed reply!


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