Well, three days ago, my home country of Canada celebrated the anniversary of the day that it became an independent nation, and today, it's your turn America!
HAPPY 239th BIRTHDAY TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!
And, I kid you not, there are fireworks going off right now as I type this (which is really bizarre given that at the time I am writing this post, it is 10:18pm on the third of July). But whatever the case, I'm close enough to the American border that I can see the beautiful shades of blue, red, white, green, and purple lights exploding in the night sky.
Of course, fireworks are just one part of the fourth of July (as well as on July 1, when we celebrate Canada Day). There's also the quest to find the perfect barbecued hamburger, the search for the best apple pie, and the dozens of carnivals and celebrations that seem to come about every year around this time. Yes, the first week of July is a week that is very special, and there is definitely a lot to be thankful for during this time.
Most importantly, we are grateful for the gift of freedom...a gift that some of us take for granted at times.
I mean, don't get me wrong. For centuries, both Canada and the United States have done everything to ensure that we continue to embrace freedom, even if it means sending troops on peacekeeping missions or sending them to battle those who want to take those freedoms away. And for that, everyone will forever be grateful. After all, we honour our veterans every Remembrance/Veterans/Armistice Day, and we remember those who died protecting our respective nations on Memorial Day (or in the case of Canada, Remembrance Day).
But somehow, when all of those men signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, I highly doubt that some 239 years down the road that they would think that making America a free country would give people the right to go shopping.
I can't get over how many television commercials that I have seen since Monday advertising "America's Greatest Sale", or "4th of July Blowouts". Furniture stores claim to have the biggest televisions on sale for the lowest prices. Department stores have slashed prices on clothing and jewelry. Uncle Sam wants YOU to buy a brand new car for yourself, your spouse, and all of your kids regardless of whether they can legally drive it or not!
And while I would like to state that this is only a 4th of July thing, I remember seeing dozens of ads for Canada Day sales just about everywhere, from jeans and appliances to toothpaste and Swiss Chalet chicken!
And you know, I think it's getting really out of control.
Obviously everyone expects Christmas and Valentine's Day to be two of the most materialistic holidays in the world (even though neither one of them was meant to be when they were first observed). But Canada Day and the 4th of July always seemed like holidays that weren't supposed to be materialistic at all.
Growing up, we never exchanged presents for Canada Day. Stores weren't even open on Canada Day. The day was meant for local celebration where all the townspeople would gather around and celebrate our country's birthday. I seem to remember Canada Day always falling smack dab in the middle of our summer holiday festival, and every year, the whole family would walk down to Block House Island, grab a free slice of red and white cake, and watch some of the performances along the waterfront.
Canada Day was never about going to the mall, or to box stores, or even online shopping (which granted did not exist in the late 1980s/early 1990s). It was about having the freedom to celebrate the fact that we are Canadians and we are free to enjoy the beauty that our nation gave us each and every day.
Similarly, to my neighbours down south, the 4th of July was never about going on a shopping spree in the commercial districts of your cities. It is about celebrating the birth of a nation and spending the day with those you love the most in this world.
So to see some retailers using both Canada Day and the 4th of July as another excuse to hock their wares and get people to go further into credit card debt...I can't help but feel that our founding fathers would be turning over in their graves knowing that their hard work to create two great nations seems to take a back seat to finding the perfect pair of yoga pants.
What next? Celebrating Arbor Day with a huge sale on reams of computer paper at Staples?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that materialism has made a mockery of our most treasured holidays. And, I don't think the real Canadian or American dream is to go out and buy as much stuff as possible just because you have the freedom to.
Instead, think about why we have that freedom in the first place.
Happy 4th of July to all of my American friends.