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Happy Independence Day, America

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Memories of the 4th of July in my family go back to the traditional BBQ, potato salads, baked beans and A&W root beer floats.  We might have had some fireworks at home, but we also caught the fireworks along the Little Arkansas River in Wichita.  Running around barefoot until we finally settled down along the riverbank to see the city's fireworks.  Later on when we moved to California, it was a Dodger Dog at a Dodgers game or nachos at an Angels baseball game.  Each game came with fireworks and concerts afterwards.  Alternatively, finding a place to dig into the sand at Huntington Beach Pier with my hot cocoa and blanket.  We would put out the American Flag most times, but we weren't big flag wavers.  Didn't need to be, I don't think.  The music was always John Phillip Souza with the fireworks along with singing America, I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy and You're a Grand Ol' Flag.  Movies always included the black and white oldie, Yankee Doodle Dandy with the legendary James Cagney.

How can that translate when you live in another country?  Is it or should it be okay to celebrate when you live someplace else?  I had a conversation recently with a family member while back in the States about how immigrants to the US shouldn't be allowed to waive their previous country's flag or celebrate their own independence day from another country.  That got me thinking quite a bit.  Like many expats here, I've lived in several countries now.  It always felt like the right thing to do.  To celebrate as Americans, to reminisce about how we used to celebrate with our families and how different it is to be overseas during this time. I also say it as a way to reconnect, to re-create that link to not just a past, but a recognition of just how amazing we had it growing up in America.  Certain aspects of life we grew up with are not reflected in many other countries.  How often are we amazed at what others have to go through for things that we thought were simple?  I've learned to appreciate my home country more as an expat than I believe I ever did living there.  

Outwardly, though, I had to really think about what it mean to celebrate Independence Day as expats somewhere else in the world.  Is it ungracious to our new host country to celebrate?  We, as expats, are pretty aware of our distinctions and the perception of Americans routinely attributed to us, whether or not we deserve it or like it.  Are we the foreigners looking to inflict our way of life somewhere else?  I've come to the conclusion, here in Australia anyway, that we are encouraged to celebrate our distinctions.  Most recently, I was invited to attend a ceremony for US Veterans at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance.  The gracious outpouring and representation from Australia's armed forces was more than a mere formality.  It was a genuine respect and recognition for the US service members.  I was sincerely, and tearfully overwhelmed.  It wasn't about nationalism, it was truly about the sacrifice others have made for this concept we have of Freedom.  4th of July, at it's heart, is about a people's willingness to sacrifice for what we now call basic freedoms.  I think it's okay to celebrate, recreate and recognise this human trait with great exuberance.  

"You're a grand ol' flag, you're a high-flying flag, and forever in peace may you wave"

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