I don’t do much to celebrate the Fourth of July.
It’s not because I’m secretly a dirty Commie so and so with red in his veins and hatred towards Uncle Sam in his heart. I can assure you, none of that is true. There’s just not much there for me when it comes to America’s bday.
The big thing with Fourth of July is the parading and the fireworks.
I’m ok with fireworks, I don’t love them but I’ll watch and enjoy them in person for a bit. Usually by the quarter pole the allure of bright and loud things in the sky starts to fade, my neck and back start to get sore and my attention wanders.
Parades though. Those I vehemently dislike. There is nothing more boring than standing outside and watching other people walk by you slowly in a straight line.
My favorite part of any of the parades I’ve been to is when the line backs up and I get to watch the paraders (parade participants?) awkwardly wave to the same section of the crowd while they wait for things get moving again.
Outside of that brief bit of “Office”-like squirm-humor, it’s just a lot of walking, loud noises and the occasional silly costume. I could go to any mall in the country on any day of week and get the same experience by watching old people do laps from outside of a Hot Topic.
There are also the BBQs which I like, but there are lots of BBQs during the summer, I cook on my own grill at least once a week, so there’s nothing very special about them.
The one tradition that I hold sacred is watching the movie “Gettysburg” on VHS tape every single July. All 4 ½ hours of it.
The Ted Turner-produced Civil War epic is one of my all-time favorite movies. And there’s no better way to celebrate America in my opinion then spending about the time it would take the average person to run a marathon watching a movie about that time when America almost divorced itself.
Sure, it might be better to make the pilgrimage to Gettysburg or some other Civil War site. God knows I could drive to Gettysburg and back in about the time it takes me to watch the movie.
But then I’d be deprived of the fun of dusting off my ancient tape-playin’ device, remembering what channel the TV needs to be set to in order for it to work and dicking around with the tracking every ten minutes to keep the picture at just the right level of blurred fuzziness.
Alright it’s because I’m lazy. Still, watching “Gettysburg” is a damn good way to spend the day and here are the top four – see what I did there? Four? – reasons why:
4.) Because the date. The Battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1, 1863 to July 3, 1863, making July 4 the day everyone from both sides got together before the next battle, had a few beers and reminisced about everything that had happened during the previous few days. I’ve seen a few Civil War reenactments in my day so I know this is how it works.
3.) Because America. If Gettysburg had gone a little differently and those Southerners had begun their Northern vacation on a good note, who knows what the world would be like? Imagine needing a passport just to go to flippin’ Disney World? That’s not an existence I want for myself or my children. And don’t even get me started about Mardi Gras.
2.) Because Battle of Little Round Top. There should be a warning in the movie before Col. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine charge down Little Round Top that watching said sequence could lead to wild bouts of flag-waving and random choruses of “America, Fuck Yeah!” The Battle of Little Round Top was easily the most important thing the US military did since little Georgie Washington rode that comet straight into dinosaur base camp.
1.) Because beards. There is no great sign of independence than the majestic, flowing and perfectly groomed beards that populate the film. Men who are enslaved or imprisoned don’t grow beards like those. Only men who’ve drank the sweet, sweet nectar of liberty possess the follicular fortitude to produce whiskers as luxuriant as those.