Quarantined 4th: And Boom Goes the Freedom?

JULY 3, 2020

The memories of the 4th of July that spark and pop deep in my brain are those of concussively loud explosions, blinding bright lights, the sound of trickling sparkled trails, watermelons & lemonade, hotdogs, the scalding dry heat, grass fires & water hoses, sparklers spelling out names in the dark, visitors, and laughter; with Lee Greenwood or Bruce Springsteen playing as the background theme song in my head. An outright smorgasbord sensory stimuli and emotional affects.

As some might say… 'Merica!

We lived out in the country in the Texas Panhandle. All year, I could go to the porch, listen to a Mockingbird a quarter-mile away, and hear a jet ski a few miles away. I would sit and watch the bald eagles, barely visible, soaring above. I would sit in the silent solitude, where even the grasshoppers rustling the grass a few yards away were noticeable. Quiet. It was bittersweet as a kid. I loved it and loathed it at the same time. The nearest friends were miles away. Sometimes it felt like peaceful solitude, while sometimes it felt like isolation. There were times I would have traded anything to have people closer. Now, as an adult, it is often the opposite. However, the calm and solitude were joyfully obliterated on the 4th.

Our house was close to Lake Meredith, where they did the county-wide fireworks. We could sit on our porch and watch the show. People would drive from all over and would crowd the street to get a better view. We would have family friends come over - our half-circle driveway was never as crowded as on the 4th. The nights that followed would etch themselves into my memories for decades to come.

Fast forward a few decades.

Now, I'm a parent of three. We traditionally go to a big city firework show. They have food & beverage trucks (my favorite part), bounce houses, train rides, face painting, a petting zoo, electronic light toys (to keep track of your kids and a replacement for the sparklers), live bands, and are lots of excitement and fun. Well, save the standing in lines for 20 minutes to do a 2-minute bounce house, or buy a $15 hamburger and beer - but, perhaps that's just my inner-curmudgeon coming out to shake his fist at you and tell you to get off his lawn. TBH, I actually enjoy it. I know my kids love the event. I'm not sure who will have more fond memories... but maybe that's more about the fondness and joy you share with the people you're with than the specific activities you do? Either way, I'm sure they will look back fondly on the events. LightUpArlington001_300dpi.jpg images.jpeg Fast forward to The Great Quarantine of 2020... the wrong kind of Corona for the 4th. To be honest, I'm not sure what to feel about a quarantined, vehicle-confined, socially distanced, face mask-wearing firework show. We are lucky enough to have a van that has enough room to fold a seat down and let the kids jump around a bit, or watch a show, with air conditioning while we wait on the fireworks (yes, I fully acknowledge our #priveledge here). We have cup holders (no beer for me unless my wife decides to be the DD), and storage for food. Now, obviously, we can pop the trunk and sit beside the van to watch the show. It will be an experience. This will be the first fruit snacked, juice cupped, tinfoil wrapped pre-made hotdogged 4th of July meal for the Sumpter Clan. (note to self... why didn't I buy that small portable grill when it was on sale on Labor Day last year?!) There will also be no other people (not socially distanced). We did have the option to go to gatherings, with people who are as close as family. I would rather be with them. But, the COVID Concern of groups has us pinned to a quarantined 4th. I have several close family members who have several health markers that put them at a higher risk for COVID. Either way, my kids likely won't know the difference and will have a fun night to remember (unless blogs are still a thing in the decades to come, and they read this post). If this point in time is actually remembered in 50 years, my kids' children will ask them what they did for the 4th during the Great Quarantine of 2020. They may say something like, "I dunno, we went to a big stadium and had a tailgating picnic with hotdogs, listened to music and danced with our mom, had slushy popsicles, glamped out in our van for the day and watched a show with popcorn with our dad." Not too bad, for posterity sake anyway. ————————- See, that's the thing we do, as humans. We get disappointed and frustrated about something, then get angry, then it ruins the time. I am disappointed by the loss of the big fireworks festivities. I still have the fireworks show. I am disappointed by not being able to be with family and friends but am still with family. Anger is the recognition that something is unjust, something is unfair, or we need to protect ourselves. Anger then propels us to act to change that injustice or fully accept that we can't change it. If anger spoils, it turns into bitterness, contempt, and can even impact our overall health over time. Is it unjust that my kids can't jump on a bouncy house? No. Is it unjust that I can't buy a $7 crap beer? No. Is it unjust that my plans changed, and I was excited about something that is no longer going to happen? No. Is it unjust that the City is ASKING that I wear a face mask, stay at or around my car, but still open up large parking lots for free so we can again watch fireworks with our kids? No. No, it is disappointing. It's frustrating. I don't like it. It's not unjust. It's not anger's job to deal with this situation; it's disappointment and frustration. Could it be unjust? Sure. It could get to the point where my civil liberties are actually violated. That's always a possibility, as history has taught us. Is it real right now? It's possible, but I am still free to follow the guidelines set forth to protect me and others from getting sick. I am still able to do lots of things. Is it moving into an area where freedoms are at risk? Depends on how you define freedom, and how rationally you can look at the objective situations. I'm a nerd, it's all about the definitions (or rather the meaning, purpose, and intent of the words used and what is implied). So, some quick defining: Rights are what we are legally, morally, and socially entitled to have. As U.S. Citizens, on the whole, we believe these are inherent aspects of the dignity of our beings. For example, we have the Rights to basic needs: food, water, shelter, safety, pursuit of happiness, be treated equally as a person regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation, etc. I don’t have the Right to have a nicer car because someone else does, that’s not unjust, it’s just unfair. I have the Right to work a job and get enough money to get that car someday. I do have the Right to transport myself places - the mode of that transportation is either fairly squared to my desires, or not. More on unfair vs. unjust below. A lot of confusion and social disagreements are based on differences of opinion of what is “entitled” and what our “Rights” are (even those two words probably sound differently to you? They’re actually a part of the same definition). We can also conflate what is “right” (morally, ethically, and socially) with what our “Rights” are. The right thing to do might not have anything to do with someone’s Rights. It might be right for me to tell my son to share his toys with his sisters, they have no Right to his toys though. Freedom is the ability to think, act, speak without hindrance or restraint. I was never more free than sitting in the silence of the West Texas Sun. However, I had no responsibilities and not a lot of other people to contend with. I was actually less free during the 4th of July Party than alone in isolation. By that standard, only hermits who live by themselves are genuinely free. I can't say ANYTHING I want to my wife... I mean, I'm free to... but it might not always be a good idea. SO I'm free, but I'm not. *Freedom doesn’t mean we can DO whatever we want to DO without limits - as that can infringe on the rights of others. Independence is the state of not being under the control of or under the authority of another. By this standard, no one is radically independent, as we are all under the authority of some governing body. We, as a nation, are free from external control. But, we are not independent of all governing parties. Unjust and Unfair: deciding what is not right. For the sake of conversation, right or wrong, I usually differentiate unjust as something wrong that is malleable and unfair as that which is wrong but not controllable. For example, it is unjust that some can't go to work but still have to pay bills. It is unfair to have several health markers for a sickness that is sweeping the world, and you fear for your life. Someone controls you paying bills, and it can be (theoretically) changed. No one controls genetics and health markers. Both of these situations are grave concerns that cause fear. *If you add fear to the mix of disappointment and frustration (e.g., fear of having civil liberties revoked or of dying from an incurable disease that is actually present), then the mistagged anger will get really activated. I'm not here to say who is right and who is wrong. I'm not God. I'm no policymaker. Only time will tell. At the moment, I feel a bit stifled, a little silly wearing a face mask (looks like a jockstrap on my face), and uncertain which way to go. Tempt fate and be around groups of travelers? Bend to the will of some outside group of people who hope to have civil liberties erode out from underneath us? We can't control sickness. We can control who we vote for, how we choose to live in our society, what we permit, and what we don't. We can stand up for what is “right” and for our shared “Rights.” Right now, I'll be honest, I'm annoyed, frustrated, and disappointed. Does that give me the right to be angry? I think not. If a situation arises where I do have the right to be angry, be assured, then I would do something about it. All I know is, for now, I can think, act and say whatever I want to (that won’t get me in trouble with the missus). For now, it's time to grab my shades and sunscreen, wrap a hotdog in tinfoil, bring some games for my kids, and enjoy the 4th of July from our car. From my family to yours, Happy 4th of July!