The Boring Word About Patriotism

July 3, 1985

We’re getting ready for another Fourth of July at our house. I’ve checked the supply of charcoal, dusted off the flag, found out the time for the fireworks and bought film for the camera and steaks for the grill.

The Fourth has always been one of my favorite holidays. As a child it usually meant a party because my birthday came on the fifth. But as I grew older and birthdays were no longer as important (definitely!) I still enjoyed the holiday more than most. Perhaps its because I don’t have to make lists, spend weeks shopping and hours wrapping gifts that are returned the next day. There are no costumes to sew, no turkeys to stuff, no party dresses to buy. It’s a day to just relax with family and friends.

This year as the news is filled with stories of the hostages the true spirit of the Fourth really comes home. In all the fun of the holiday it is sometimes very easy to forget why we are celebrating. It is even harder to remember those reasons once the glow of the fireworks has left the sky, the charcoal has cooled and the flag packed away.

It’s so easy to forget that this is a special country where we have a say in our government and can vote for our officials. On the local level those officials give long hard hours of their time with very little if any reward.

One of my jobs at the newspaper is to cover meetings. On thing I’ve learned over the years is that very few of the voters are interested in what their elected representatives are doing. Week after week, month after month I sit a meetings that often have no audience except for newspaper reporters.

Once in a while a group or even a large crowd will show up. They usually have a specific problem which they want solved immediately, if not sooner. Frequently they remind me of my children. They raise their voices, occasionally even stamp their feet, but rarely do they listen to what their officials are trying to say. They often leave their manners at home as if there is no need for them in government.

So often the complaints are about roads that are not controlled by the local government, involve personal disputes with neighbors (not a municipal issue), or are minor requests which could have been answered with a simple phone call. Members of councils, zoning boards, school boards and commissioners are accused of playing favorites when in reality they are only following the law. You can hear veiled threats about the next election, but any experienced politician knows that when it comes time to find candidates for local office most of those in the audience will not be found.

Patriotism is easy on the Forth of July. To those who practice it day after day at council, school board, park commission, library board or whatever public office needs filled – Thank you.