I'm hardly ever anywhere near downtown Philadelphia for the 4th of July, but every once in a while, I am. And then I say to myself, "Where did all these people come from?"
Because while it may be no big whoop to me that I live in a place where much of the town resembles a set from the movie version of 1776, apparently a lot of tourists from places like Montana, Ohio and even Japan are absolutely thrilled to be in the place where our beloved surveillance and torture state first pecked its way out of the egg. (A song cue if ever I heard one!)
Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the ideals under which this nation was first founded, so long ago, right here in my urban hellhole. It's just that we seem to fall so far short most of the time. Sigh.
I am such a history geek that I used to tour Independence Hall every year or so, and it was maybe twenty years ago when I happened to be there with my friend Charlie. The tour was a little shorter than usual, because they were doing asbestos removal, and the Congressional meeting room was bare. The tour guide felt bad, you could tell; as a consolation prize, she asked if any of us would like to instead walk on the platform WHERE THE FREAKIN' DECLARATION WAS SIGNED. (I said yes! In case you couldn't tell.)
And I can't describe what it was like, standing there in the same sacred place where all those men, knowing they were sealing their fate as traitors against the crown, signed it anyway. Never knowing where or how far it would go, but casting their lot with the idea, the very concept of the United States of America -- of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (Let me pause here, because I have something in my eye.)
I will never forget. It was the thrill of my lifetime.
Now, today? What used to be called Freedom Week is now called Wawa Welcome America, sponsored by our iconic local chain of convenience stores. Last night, they showed "Rocky" on the steps of the art museum (because, you know, Rocky on the steps), and today is the 23rd Annual Hoagie Day, where a salute to Our Troops is followed by free admission to the National Constitution Center and the distribution of free hoagies. (They used to make the World's Biggest Hoagie and slice it up, but the crowds got too big.)
At every point in the festivities, though, we (and by "we," I mean the Department of Homeland Security and the associated secret state apparatus) will be watching for terrorists. Because Ramadan and ISIS!
Plus, people have been getting a little too uppity lately, it might be time for them to remind us what our surveillance state is for, and exactly who is supposed to serve who. Just so we don't go getting any ideas about dismantling the damned thing.
Just remember: It wasn't always supposed to be this way. Hold onto that thought, because sooner or later, we're going to need it.