The men who sweltered through a Philadelphia summer in order to make a nation gave us a sticky inheritance. We sweat our ways through annual celebrations of their efforts. Although few of them ever took to the field of battle, we take to the street for mock military parades and patriotic fervor. A more fitting memorial might be to retreat to the library and read their historical justification for throwing off the crown. Instead, we send our young into the street to speed toward a future we dream will surpass our founding fathers’ minimalist aspirations for white, male landowners.
My first memories of Fourth of July parades involve the Equal Rights Amendment. Women marching in the street to demand that the Constitution formally embrace their place in the body politic. My elementary-school-self struggled with the desire to show up at the parade with my mother’s jug of Era laundry detergent held high in an ironic statement of fealty. I feared someone would misconstrue my meaning as more Phyllis Schafly than Shirley Chisholm and left the bottle in the basement. But the sense of purpose stuck with me. The 4th is when we look ahead and dream ourselves a more perfect union.
Last week John Roberts allowed his dream to include the Affordable Care Act. Two months ago Barack Obama embraced marriage equality. Baby steps, but the patriotic children we liberate to play in the street today might grow into the heroes of tomorrow.