For the second year in a row I've spent the 4th in my husbands home town with his family. Though it is not far from the Twin Cities it is a definately MN small town in look and feel. All the small town-ness that occurs there that just seems foreign to me, although it is not unwelcome. I'm getting used to the fact that everyone knows my husband's family, and that they probably know a lot about me too. I've long lost track of how they all know Chris...whether it be "I was his day care provider" or "I lived in X house before the X's did" or whatever. I've gotten used to my mother in law saying "You'll never guess who..." and then offering clues so that everyone knows who they are talking about except me.
I suppose that it is not really different from the average people you meet but it is condensed by the size of the town. I'm getting used to it, and it does have its charm. And I'm even slowly starting to recognize more of the many people that I've met over the years since I started coming to this particular small town America. (Which really isn't all that small and a city, but much different from what I grew up with).
Thankfully said small town is also a college town, which ups the political spectrum from much of small town America. I have been feeling particularly grouchy about the 4th of July this year, especially after Sunday. At church we closed worship with My Country Tis of Thee. As patriotic hymns go I suppose it wasn't the worst, but I was so annoyed by the liberal use of the term 'freedom' in the hymn. "Let freedom ring..." and all of that. With the country at a war in Iraq we started for dubious reasons, fighting a war against terror (which much of the country thinks is synonmous for a war against Islam *grrrrr*), going deeper in debt, ignoring the UN, ignoring health care, education and economics, in favor of more "moral" debates such as marriage amendments, patriot acts, and abortion, I have little positive to say about our freedoms. The freedoms that we were founded with (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly) are deminishing while we have soliders fighting and dying in Iraq in the name of our *freedom*
Faced with my already negative attitude I wasn't sure I had the energy for the pomp of the 4th. So at said small town we began the morning with the parade which lasted for two hours. I saw more obscure beauty queen winners and fire trucks to last me until at least next 4th of July. And being an election year the local candidates were out in force. The republicans came first complete with a fellow in an elephant costume. After a good distance came the DFLers, and I was pleased to see that their numbers were larger! It offered a little hope that as a nation we can have the good sense to turn the country around after the 8 years of "W."
What was particularly cool was that marching with the DFLers, offering his support for the candidates of this town and county, was Al Franken. Chris and I got to shake his hand though he had to move on before my mother in law thought to get the camera out. It made me happy to see that a nationally known name took the time to come out and do the work of supporting a local candidate. It was not like the president flying in and backing up traffic to do a brief PR appearance, it was him walking and being present and supportive and welcoming. I knew I liked him! Anyway it was a cool thing to see, and did manage to remind me that the democracy can still be a powerful force and that things can change from their current state.
The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully and we had to drive home before the fireworks, but small town America had given me a renewal of hope for the 4th of July. The history of our nation is one that moves towards equality and freedom, even when we are stuck in the rhetoric that causes us to believe that limiting freedoms and equalities is a moral necessity. I have to have hope that it will succeed in standing for equality and freedom for all once more.