by Robert Bell
"POPS ON THE RIVER"
Noon. Riverfront Park. Free.
Independence Day is upon us once more, my fellow Americans. It's that special time of year when we as a nation take a day off from toil (well, most of us do, or a goodly number of us anyway) to quietly reflect upon the nature of freedom, and to contemplate the awesome responsibility that comes with living in a representative republic — a place where one person's vote can determine the outcome of an election and thus the fate of a nation, a place where anyone, regardless of his background (well, technically anyone 35 or older who was born on U.S. soil) could grow up to become president.
I know most of you will probably observe the holiday the same way I always do: by retiring to a leather chair in my book-lined study, Sousa's "Marches" on the Hi-Fi, a glass of warm milk and cognac in one hand and a dog-eared copy of de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" in the other.
But I'll allow that there are other avenues to observe the anniversary of our nation's Declaration of Independence. For example, the daily newspaper organizes a festival down on the banks of the Arkansas, with all manner of common-type attractions — food vendors and automobile exhibitions and singing competitions and what-have-you. The local orchestra will perform popular works, and the whole affair typically concludes with a display of amateur rocketry and pyrotechnics of the sort pioneered by the Chinese (although purportedly all of those discharged are manufactured on these shores).
The unwashed masses are allowed in for free and are encouraged to bring along a chair or blanket upon which to rest their weary bones. They are strongly discouraged from bringing in their own libations, explosives or livestock, though the Lord knows some of them will try.