Besides the Jewish holidays, which have always been my favorite to celebrate, the 4th of July has always held a special place in my heart. I am not sure why it is… maybe it's the pageantry, with all the red, white, and blue bunting and decorations and celebrating our nation. It could also be that growing up, my hometown, Danville, had an annual 4th of July parade through the town that ended with a huge chili kick-off and celebration. Whatever the reason, I love the holiday and what it symbolizes.
Our country was founded on a set of principles and ideals that are very similar to what Judaism believes. In the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that "all men are created equal." While there have been a lot of discussions and arguments about what he intended by those words, the fact remains that the ideal of equality and acceptance for who we are as individuals is the basis of what freedom and liberty mean.
There is no more emblematic symbol of these ideals than our wrapped up in our flag… "old glory." Although Flag Day has its own holiday (June 14), the "stars and stripes" are celebrated on July 4. For me, the flag is a powerful image that has stood the test of time and is a symbol of all the United States stands for. In March 1982, Norman Lear and his partner Bud Yorkin produced a two-hour special for ABC titled "I Love Liberty." During this special, Robin Williams did an incredible routine as the flag that was powerful and poignant and still holds true today.
Symbols convey great power and meaning. One image can represent many different ideas to many people. Take, for instance, the Star of David. For some, it represents a positive connection between Jews and Judaism, while others see it negatively. The same is true for a rainbow, especially in light of the current climate we find ourselves in today. I bring up the idea of symbols because the US Flag also carries many different images and beliefs for people. In all cases, how you "see" a symbol depends on each individual's understanding and experience.
As you gather with friends and family this 4th of July to watch a parade, attend a pool party or barbecue, or sit together to watch fireworks shows remember that each of us has the power to embody the ideals of what the United States was established to be and can be if we work together to ensure that everyone has a chance for "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Happy 4th of July!