Every Color of the Rainbow

I have a conflicted relationship with Independence Day (or the Fourth of July, as it has been branded for so long). Patriotism doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. The idea is that you’re supposed to be proud of the country you’re born in. But I didn’t have any control over what country I was born in. I just happened to fall out of a woman in 1974 at roughly 39°N 85°W. I didn’t do anything for that. And if you tweak any of those factors slightly, relative to the size of the world and the scope of history, suddenly I’m not born in the United States anymore.

There are, of course, plenty of people who choose to move to the United States, just as there are plenty of people who choose to move to other countries, and, given the incredible obstacles that have been established to prevent someone from moving from one country to the next, one could take pride in having accomplished such a move. And I know people whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents made such a move, and the narrative of that move has been passed down to them, so there is a kind of pride by proxy, and I can get that. But I don’t have that narrative in my family. Most of my ancestors arrived on this continent as colonists, before there was a United States. They were always citizens of another country even though they lived here. The rest of my ancestors were dragged here against their will on slave ships.

Moreover, I don’t think the current nation-state model serves us well, neither now nor in the future. This model imbues us with identities that fool us into thinking that we aren’t all equal, all seven billion of us, and we allow that false sense of inequality dictate how we treat each other. And I really don’t think the nation-state model will serve us in 100 or 200 years, after most of our major cities have been submerged by a sea we have raised up. It makes sense to me to start the ball rolling now for our descendants to have a more sustainable model of global relationship.

But gosh, I love fireworks. For no other reason than I find them beautiful.

And they're universal--these were shot off for Canada Day. Photo by Jeff Wallace (WherezJeff) via Flickr.com

And they’re universal–these were shot off for Canada Day. Photo by Jeff Wallace (WherezJeff) via Flickr.com

I feel almost ashamed saying that, since my Facebook stream yesterday was filled with reminders that fireworks can trigger anxiety and PTSD symptoms in veterans and immigrants from war-torn countries. But I realized I have a friend who is deathly allergic to onions, and I still eat onions.

So yesterday I had to go see the Minneapolis fireworks display. Mind you, it’s not enormous – the city hosts one of the largest fireworks displays in the country in a couple of weeks, as part of the Aquatennial festival. I live close by, so it was easy enough for me to go. And, as is the wont of single people, I went alone. But by going alone despite my extrovert urges, as I’m learning more and more, I have space to observe and to think, critical tools for a writer.

I walked down to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge about 9:15 p.m. and I waited, along with thousands of other people. And I took a good hard look at those thousands of people around me. We were of every color of the rainbow, dressed in T-shirts and business suits and hijabs. Some of us were born in this space that for the moment is called the United States, and others weren’t. And we were of every stripe of the rainbow flag, as couples both gay and straight walked past me.

And as I stood, two young Asian American women to my left and an African American couple to my right, I was a speck amongst thousands, tiny yet significant, like all the other thousands of specks around me. And in my mind, those thousands of us standing and waiting represented, not America, but humanity, a sampling of the seven billion with whom I identify first and to whom I place my ultimate allegiance.

And we waited. And the fireworks were set off, in every color of the rainbow. And gosh, they were beautiful.

And gosh, we were beautiful.

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About Whittier Strong

Whittier Strong is an MFA student in creative writing at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, with a focus in nonfiction. He graduated from Metropolitan State University with a BA in creative writing. He has special interests in sociology and philosophy.

Posted on 5 July, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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