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   AP Essay: In divided era, what does July 4th mean?

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7/5/2012 6:00 am

Author

TED ANTHONY

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Entered 7/5/2012, Updated 7/5/2012

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SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (AP) - In the market for new designer eyewear this Independence Day? Look no further than Wize Eyes on Long Island. "So Proudly We Hail," the chain advertised this week, "With Fashion Eyewear ... At Half The Price." Perhaps Competition Subaru of Smithtown's flag-themed "July 4th Blast of Savings SALES EVENT" is more up your alley this year. Or possibly you need some last-minute hot dogs for your Fourth of July cookout? Don't miss the Dietz & Watson "Grill-a-bration." Look around, and one truth seems kind of self-evident. If you arrived in America with entirely fresh eyes, it would be easy to conclude that the summer's day on which we celebrate our hard-won independence from England is merely a pause to blow up some colorful explosives, cook some meat over an open flame and get some good deals on major appliances. And, of course, drink beer. But that can't be all there is. Can it? In an era when everything from health care policy to immigration divides us more than it unites us, when the Internet allows us to tear apart our fellow Americans' virtual throats from the comfort of our keyboards, what does a holiday like Independence Day mean? Is commercialism the only thing that keeps us together? Does this tribal-feeling nation of niches and special interest groups and online communities still have much use for a holiday that, at its most elemental, celebrates the societal-level version of "Hey - I'm sick of you, so I'm leaving"? After 11 score and 16 years, we certainly know how the routine goes.


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