Growing up in the southern United States, my overriding memory of the Fourth of July is heat. Hot, sticky, oppressive air that caused the sweat to run down your face before you\'d made it from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car. Most years, it also rained, which just made things worse, turning the whole world into a giant steam bath. But it never stopped anyone…
The Fourth was a day to be out in the sun. The streets downtown were closed to traffic; stalls were set up selling coke, beer, cotton candy, and strange wooden lawn ornaments. There were games galore for the children and even a few for the adults. And there was music! Along with waving Old Glory, we Americans love to celebrate our country in song.  There are probably more songs about the USA than there are about pickup trucks and outlaws put together, which is saying something.
This big party is just a build-up, however. Because the real celebration happens at night, when the sky is lit up by hundreds of streaking fireworks. I\'ve heard say that these represent “The bombs bursting in air…” from the National Anthem, but, of course, that line is a reference to the War of 1812, not the Revolution.
Although the Fourth commemorates our Independence, it has become a day to celebrate American ideals: freedom, justice, equality and opportunity. We may not always live up to them, and like every other country in the world we\'ve got our share of bad eggs, but we try, and as the Fourth demonstrates, we will keep trying.
For myself, I\'m going to use this excuse to have a half-day off work, take a long walk in the sun if it lasts, and listen to John Mellencamp\'s Freedom\'s Road album.