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Enjoy the things which still unite us

It’s Independence Day weekend, and communities across the nation have a variety of celebrations taking place in observance of the birth of the United States of America.

July 4, 1776 was when the Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress. The actual declaration was made July 2, but the document wouldn’t be finished for another two days. We already were a year into the American Revolutionary War, and the Founding Fathers put together a document to formally cite the colonies’ reasons for breaking away from Great Britain. It wasn’t the original plan of that Congress, and it didn’t automatically make us an independent nation. It was a step in the journey, declaring 13 colonies as independent states. It would still be some time before we were truly a nation, and, even then, July 4 didn’t receive the fanfare it does today.

These days, of course, there are festive fireworks displays, community picnics, music, street fairs and much more.

In my youth, it was a family tradition to watch the Weirton Independence Day Parade. (It didn’t matter to me what day it was back then. It was summer and I was out of school, so I really didn’t have anything else to do).

We would set up chairs and blankets, with all the kids ready to grab as much candy as possible, cheer on the Brooke High School Marching Band, watch the floats and enjoy the day. There was usually a family picnic at some point around the holiday, with all of the cousins hanging out, and maybe a few sparklers or bigger items lit for the enjoyment of all.

As we got older, we still went. My brother and sister were in the parade for several years (as part of the aforementioned Brooke High School Marching Band), although I wasn’t rushing out to get any candy. Some years included trips to both the Weirton and Wellsburg parades, plus family activities.

As an adult, the parades are still enjoyable, although being there also is work for me. It’s the same with the various festivals organized for the holiday (or any holiday for that matter). I’m seldom there to celebrate or enjoy the moment, which can be unfortunate.

To me, the nice thing about Independence Day is it provides us an opportunity to put all of the junk going on in our lives and in the world to the side and celebrate as a nation. It’s one of the few things we seem to have in common these days as the people of this country continue to find ways to divide ourselves. It’s not about political parties or who happens to be president. It’s not about where we live or where we originated. It’s not about our lifestyle or where we may stand in our society. We are Americans.

I know there is much concern for the future of our nation as a result of current political and societal discourse. None of us are immune from what is taking place right now. We will all be affected by decisions being made on our behalves.

My hope is that this weekend, at least, we can try to take some time to put all of that to the side and celebrate what unites us instead of what divides us. Enjoy the parades and the fireworks. Spend time with your family, whether it’s having a picnic, watching a movie or going for a drive.

Trust me, all of the other stuff will still be here after the holiday.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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