I like fireworks. I kind of have a knack for them. 1812 is one of my favorite pieces of music. Some people call them trashy, and maybe they are, a little. When I was a kid we couldn’t let off fireworks in our yard. I was angry. Our neighbor was a Viet Nam vet. I didn’t understand when I was little why the fireworks upset him. I just thought he was cranky.
Later I learned a few things about what war is like. I learned about PTSD, about how horrors follow you and don’t disappear overnight. In Roanoke, there’s a huge firework display near where Victory Stadium used to be (where Andrew Lewis played T.C. Williams, you know, from “Remember the Titans”), which is also right next to the memorial hospital. I wonder sometimes how the fireworks sound to the vets. It’s a strange juxtaposition, celebrating freedom with these flash bang works of fire, which also mimic the sounds and sparks and repercussions of battle.
I love this land and it’s people and it’s places. As a foreigner, I appreciate your empire letting Christians like us live in your land without molestation. You have been very kind to us. We appreciate you consulting our Holy text among the other sources you looked to in fashioning the principles of the country you created. I am sometimes worried by reports of how you seem to be restricting the space we have to spread our message, but I confess I would expect that from any country who feels threatened by a transformative faith that appears so upside-down to you.
Your country is strange to me. A little trashy. Cheap at times. Loud. Dangerous. Colorful. Enormous. Fun. A grand spectacle. Like a firework show. I too will mourn when it is over if I live to see that day, whether it end with a whimper or a bang. When it is over, we pack up our chairs, roll up our blankets, and move on. Sigh.
Sometimes I wonder if fireworks are the best choice for celebrating this day. Well, at least they’re not fired on Memorial Day. I came across this video message from a vet who shares with American Christians the perspective he finds when applying the word of God to the deeds of this land in which we Christians are travelling through as foreigners.
Like Wilson-Hartgrove, I do love this place, this land, the blessings it brings. What if one year we stopped the fireworks, and instead let vets stand up and tell their stories? Like what Forrest Gump did after Nam, except without the radical guy with the Fro “always sayin’ that ‘F’ word”.
I know a lot of people like to bring up the price that soldiers pay for our freedoms. But if we are going to take this day to celebrate our freedom, maybe we should hear the tales of what kind of things went on in the name of freedom. Let the vets have a voice. And respect that voice. Stand and hear them. Let them tell us what they witnessed. This could also open up conversations about what we send them to do. Let the vets tell us what they think about the wars we send them to.
If you are a soldier or vet, I honor the courage you showed, as the mind for service that went along with it. I may not agree with the deeds you were asked to perform for this nation, nor the choices made by powerful men to send you to where you went. But I mean no disrespect to you, nor will I refuse to give you a warm welcome. In fact, I’d love to see more soldiers come home. With all the wars this nation inherited and are expanding in the name of freedom, I almost wonder if we should fast from fireworks for a year and instead listen only to the stories of those who endured the real booming battlefields which they echo. I had a dream last night I was a vet. I had seen and done things I couldn’t forget. When I came home I was tearful, and nobody cared to listen to me because I wasn’t celebratory. Maybe that’s why I wrote about this today.
Aw, what am I saying? Let’s break out the fireworks and have us a ball! May God bless this land, and may this land respond in kind with praise and awe-filled deeds of love and service! May the milk and honey flow and the sparklers wave from the hands of children!