It goes without saying that this will be a Fourth of July unlike any other in the history of our nation.
Americans traditionally have celebrated the Fourth both with large community gatherings and with smaller get-togethers.
The Fourth of July rekindles fond memories from our childhood of the times when we spent the holiday with our families and friends for gatherings at barbecues, at the beach, and at municipal fireworks displays in the evenings.
However, the coronavirus has changed everything. The recent attempts by states to reopen their economies, even in those states that were the most cautious and with seemingly well-designed plans, have resulted in skyrocketing rates of infection that have placed millions of Americans at risk of contracting this dreaded disease.
A story on a cable news channel earlier this week highlighted a California family in which 18 family members contracted COVID-19, with some requiring lengthy hospitalization and one, the family patriarch, dying.
There was no single gathering at which the infection could have been spread. The family thought that they had been taking the proper precautions during their interactions.
However, the disease only needed a small window of opportunity to be transmitted among three generations of this family, with tragic results.
In addition to the coronavirus, the Fourth of July in 2020 comes amidst unprecedented unrest and turmoil throughout our nation. The tragic events and subsequent protests and demonstrations have demonstrated that our nation utterly has failed to live up to the lofty ideals upon which we were founded:
“… that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
When Thomas Jefferson wrote those words, he literally meant “men” only, and white men in particular. His lofty language was the ultimate in political hypocrisy: It did not apply to millions of enslaved persons nor to women, who were considered not much more than their husband’s property .
It is indisputable that those twin legacies have cast a shadow over the promise of America that continues today, 244 years later.
Another “traditional” aspect of the Fourth of July is that it encourages far too many among us to engage in behavior that is risky not only to ourselves, but to our loved ones and others around us.
Fireworks are illegal for everybody, and in no event should be allowed in the hands of children. It is a sad — but inevitable — fact that countless Americans will be maimed for life because of accidents involving fireworks this weekend.
Alcohol abuse is rampant in our country and the Fourth unfortunately provides an opportunity — which is to say, another excuse — for those who have alcohol abuse issues to indulge way more than they should, especially when operating a boat or automobile.
It is the responsibility of each of us to ensure that the Fourth is enjoyed safely not only by ourselves, but by those whom we care about. If someone has had too much to drink, take their keys. None of us wants to say to ourselves the next day, “If only I had not let them drive….”
In addition to those usual safety precautions, we also must ensure that however we celebrate the Fourth this year, we must do so wearing masks and observing physical distancing — none of us wants to be the cause of another person’s death because we were the vector who brought the coronavirus to a family member or loved one.
Admittedly, this is not a happy time in America. But we must make the best of it.
We wish all of our readers a happy — and safe — Fourth of July