Happy Independence Day from Blog for Iowa.
Where I live Independence Day is often about the weather. Today, the weather was exceptional: scattered clouds set against the azure sky, moderate temperatures and low humidity. It was a great day to be outdoors, and that is where many of us spent much of the day, celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
While tradition and family are part of holiday celebrations, the enactment of tribal culture, and each perceived instance of it are most significant. As we stood in the Ely parade lineup area, people walked past us in what seemed like an endless procession: to town, with folding chairs, in small groups, to watch the parade. It is this walking and the beliefs and artifacts around it that are at the core of shared values. It is less about the parade entries, even though they may be what people saw and talked about. It is more about the social behavior enacted by the larger group.
At the Ely Firemen’s Breakfast, compliance with cultural expectations was visible everywhere. The fire station was arranged for efficiency in handling the large number of people, there are public health considerations with food preparation. Extra activities, like the raffle, were organized to occur outside the fire station and after people had eaten breakfast. During breakfast, people gathered around the tables in family groups. There was not a lot of mingling. The expectation was that people would be friendly, but not intrusive. In this setting, it would be hard for an outsider to penetrate a specific social group without a means of introduction. Participation in the Firemen’s Breakfast becomes a cultural marker for such an introduction, which is unlikely to occur at the event and more likely to occur in other circles at other times. I enjoyed this event immensely and it looked like a lot of money would be raised for the fire station.
As a walker in several parades, I found joy in the interaction between participants and observers. Along the route, those closest to the parade were the youngest. Interaction with very young children, mostly through giving them a gift, made the day. I would present a sucker to the child, say “happy Fourth of July,” and wait for them to take it. Only one child did not take the candy, and most said thank you. At Fourth of July parades, the children are on display as much as the parade entries.
There were reactions to each entry in which I participated. The favorable reactions, cheering, clapping or thumbs up hand signs provided validity to the work we had been doing to get our message out. I am not sure we convinced anyone about any politician or cause we were supporting that day. Like all messaging, penetration can occur only with repetition. What I do believe is that in this aggregation of tribal groups, we were tolerated, and there were some supporters for our causes. These things make us Americans as we celebrate Independence Day.
~ This post is recycled from July 4, 2008, my first Independence Day blog post.