The fourth of July joins Memorial Day and Veterans day as the three times a year I feel out of step with the rest of American culture. While I’m grateful for my country’s freedoms and opportunities, and I want to mourn with those who mourn the losses of war, I cannot participate in rituals that glorify war.
On July 4, 1976, bicentennial fever swept through the U.S., and I caught an especially acute case. Soldiers from George Washington’s army occupied my bedspread. The seal of the Continental Congress dignified my bedroom rug. On the Fourth I put on a tricorner hat, rolled up my jeans to turn them into knee breeches, donned my mom’s ruffled blouse and grabbed my musket so that I could march with a hundred other suburbanites in a neighborhood parade.