What a beautiful and festive Fourth of July on Monday. I hope we feel as patriotic and happy on Aug. 4, after the summer heat has broiled us and a primary election is just past.
If only our political and cultural differences were so easily zippered together on regular days.
On Monday, fireworks began lighting up the sky over Platte City at sundown. The bangs and flashes lasted well into the night.
Weekend rainfall made the air moist. Unseasonably cool temperatures dropped to the low 70s. Leaves stood still, no breeze blowing to move them.
The still, cool, moist air made little smoke clouds hang in the air after bottle rockets and aerial bombs exploded. Mosquitoes that had plagued June were not around for the holiday.
A perfect Fourth weather-wise has passed.
One of my favorite sights appeared as I ran errands in the afternoon, and in early evening as I ferried a friend home after the cookout. Down the streets came pickup trucks and cars with American flags attached and flapping. That’s a good Fourth tradition. It felt like people were together for something for a day.
Because we all know this is a divided nation politically and socially.
There are multiple divides actually. Economic gaps and political opinions split us apart. What’s moral to one person is abhorrent to another.
A community and a nation is supposed to make decisions about the same candidates and issues, when everyone is basing those decisions on different information streams. This information varies widely in motives and quality of accuracy.
Platte County, like the country, has felt and survived great divides before.
Our ancestors were in the heart of the border wars over slavery, both before and during the Civil War. We view World War I with pride now, but at the time, not all believed America should go beyond its borders and get involved in a European War. Our boys went late, but some did go. They marched down the streets of Weston upon return.
Even before and during World War II, and before atrocities such as Nazi concentration camps turned public opinion fully towards mercies, many Americans were very intolerant toward non-Christian faiths. Young people today will not fully understand the painful gap of feelings and opinions over the Vietnam War.
Democracy has survived. So has community service.
For a few decades one of Platte County’s leading Republican organizers and a major Democratic player served together in the No Names, the volunteer nursing home visitation group. Politics did not divide their service.
Both have passed away now. Sometimes it seems political civility went, too.
School teachers in the elementary and middle school levels teach basic manners and considerations that used to be left to parents. But parents have never been perfect in any decade, and parents face more challenges today in a world where meanness has big attention-getting claws in all media from prime-time TV to obscene comedians and movies running on cable TV channels, not to mention that instant window to anything called the Internet.
But maybe teachers and parents together can influence generations into a return to civility and issues that are decided by pragmatic discussion.
The mean tone and low-brow nature of political ads today don’t give us much hope, but maybe the pendulum will swing back the other way.
There are bright spots.
I’ve complimented him before, but I’ll do it again. A mailer from state Rep. Ken Wilson arrived recently that simply said what legislation had been passed and what it pertained to. Mostly facts, little rhetoric, we’ll applaud that.
May the American flags still be flying with pride from cars and pickup trucks after we vote on county, state and national offices on Nov. 8. I hope I see them again on July 4, 2017.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.