Here’s an oldie but goodie:
Q: Do they have a Fourth of July in England?
A: Yes. They also have a Fifth of July, a Sixth of July, a Seventh of July …
OK, as riddles go, it’s not exactly a head-scratcher or a knee-slapper. But it points out the truth of today: Nobody does the Fourth of July quite like Americans.
Of course, we have a bit of history with the date. You know, the whole Declaration of Independence thing.
That was back in 1776, and over the past 235 years, we’ve done pretty well for ourselves. The largest economy in the world; victories in two World Wars; an ideal of freedom and liberty and justice that, while we might not always attain our objectives, remains the defining goal of what we desire for our nation.
Ronald Reagan often spoke of the United States as a shining city on a hill, a beacon calling to the world. Whether or not you like his politics, you have to admit the man had a way with words: “After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true to the granite ridge, and her glow has held no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”
So, yes, there is plenty to celebrate. And celebrate we will. After all, we didn’t import $3.2 million worth of American flags in 2010 (according to the Bureau of the Census) for nothing. And we didn’t import $190.7 million worth of fireworks from China just for laughs.
No, we intend to put those things to good use.
• According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Americans will consume 150 million hot dogs today — enough to stretch from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles more than five times.
• More than 25 percent of the hot dogs and pork sausages consumed in the country originated in Iowa, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Iowa has about 19 million hogs, or six for every person.
• Remember, people cannot live by hot dogs alone, and Washington’s contribution to the Fourth appears in the side dishes. Our state is among the top producers for corn on the cob, and about half the nation’s potatoes — for potato chips and potato salad — come from Idaho or Washington.
• According to The Nielsen Company, Independence Day ranks fourth among holidays in terms of beer consumption, behind Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Christmas. But please, don’t drink and drive.
Yes, it will be a party today, yet Americans don’t limit their celebration of freedom to one day a year.
According to the census bureau, 35 places in the country have “eagle” in their names. The most populous is Eagle Pass, Texas (26,248). Another 31 have “liberty” in their names, including Liberty, Mo. (29,149). Washington has unincorporated areas called “Liberty” in Yakima County and Kittitas County.
And then there’s always Patriot, Ind., population 209.
Americans are never shy about demonstrating their patriotism, and Vancouver’s traditional Fourth of July celebration gives the city a special standing on this special day.
Yet while hot dogs and barbecues and fireworks are the sizzle, it’s important never to forget the steak. It’s important never to forget the words penned by Thomas Jefferson, which remain worthy of reverence more than two centuries later:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.”
Those ideals are worth remembering as the Fourth of July turns into the Fifth of July … and beyond.