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For the Fourth 

I love the fourth of July.  I love the stars and the stripes and the fireworks.  I love singing “America the Beautiful.”  I love the images of the Statue of Liberty and the  words of Emma Lazarus that she speaks

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door

I love the fourth of July and I have since I was a little kid.  Back then we had sparklers we would flail around and snakes that would burn in funny black coils.  And there were fireworks, always fireworks, whether we were in tiny Eagle River where Grandpa and Grandma lived where the display seemed barely to reach the sky, or at home on the highest hill where we could watch the sky burst into color from the east side and the west side and all around the town.

There were parades too, and we would crepe paper our bikes in red white and blue and clothespin baseball cards to the spokes to make as much noise as a small two wheeler could.   Hot dogs and hamburgers and sno cones and ice cream…..the Fourth of July was a great day and it always ended with a sense of joy that we lived in a country as wonderful as this one.

As I grew older my appreciation deepened.  The holiday became more than fireworks and fun-filled festivals.  The more I learned about the world the more amazing the story of our own country became.    Visiting the east coast I found the bridge in Concord where the shot heard round the world was fired and it is still one of my favorite places anywhere.  I have walked the freedom trail numerous times and every time I am awed by what men and women sacrificed to insure that our rights were preserved and that we would be a government by the people and for the people.  And even though I can’t stand the Red Sox I love all of the history that Boston cradles.

From the protests of the 60’s to the patriotism after 9/ll we are united in our conviction that freedom and democracy are to be always cherished and celebrated.  So I always look forward to the 4th of July.  In recent years that has meant wandering around Memorial Park in Claremont.  I visit booths of every political and social perspective.  I buy snacks supporting young people and old people and organizations determined to make a difference.  I listen to speakers who make me clap and make me groan and remind me that without such divergent perspectives our country would never deepen or grow or be able to face the future and all its uncertainties.

But this year a little shadow has fallen upon my excitement.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it bothers me a lot.

I saw it on television.  Usually I mute the commercials but for some reason I didn’t mute this one.  I should have.  Really.  This one was  for Carl’s Jr.’s.  The ad begins with the question…”what can be more American than a cheeseburger?" And for a hopeful moment I imagined that they were going to take their commercial time to honor our nation.


Instead the ad answers the question “what can be more American than a cheeseburger?”  And we see a woman barely clad in a star striped bikini as we are told “This cheeseburger loaded with a hot dog and potato chips, in the hands of all American model Samantha Hoots “ in a hot tub, in a pick up truck driven by an American bull rider, on an aircraft carrier, under the gaze of Lady Liberty as she admires the most American thick burger with a split hot dog and kettle cooked potato chips on a fresh baked bun.”

And as I look at the ad I see her—not the all American model, but rather the model for all Americans, our lady of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty.     There she is, her torch held high welcoming so many souls into our country.  There she is, and I also realize that my beloved “America the Beautiful” is playing in the background.

Trust me, even Carl’s Jr. cannot tarnish our Lady of the Harbor.  Even Carl’s Jr. cannot mute the meaning of “American the Beautiful.”

But shame on them for trying.

My only prayer is that The Lady of Liberty’s  torch will forever light the words of the hymn:

“America, America, God shed his grace on thee.  And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”

And I think that this year, in my picnic at the park,  I’ll go with a chicken burger. 

I’m just saying…..