Was your town’s Fourth of July celebration really that bad?

How Muscatine's Fourth of July parade looked from the perspective of someone who was in the parade.
How Muscatine’s Fourth of July parade looked from the perspective of someone who was in the parade.

No two people ever see the same thing exactly the same way.

Case in point: Community Fourth of July celebrations in general — specifically the fireworks.

In my big little town on the Mississippi River’s West Bank, the Fourth began in the morning with a kiddie parade and a United Way fundraising breakfast where the crowd must have doubled the expectations of organizers. Later in the day, the activities continued with:

  • A community parade held late in an afternoon that was cool, comfortable and remarkably free of bugs and humidity.
  • The Red, White and Brew Fest, held maybe a couple hundred feet from the flooded river in a blocked off street in front of a downtown bar. It was where the Curtis Hawkins Band put on a pretty good show.
  • An evening performance by the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra, which is simply very good — especially for a small town without the benefit of having a four-year college or university whose music department could fill a local symphony with ringers.
  •  A fireworks show that lasted for more than 30 minutes.

I went to sleep last night thinking: What a GREAT day. And then I woke up to read in my Twitter feed how bad the celebration had been in Muscatine. Actually, the theme of what I saw posted on Facebook and Twitter about fireworks shows from around the country seemed to be: Too short. Not very spectacular. It sucked.

Really? The money spent nationwide on fireworks could have been put to much better uses — feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, etc. And yet, we spend this money every year to remind ourselves why we have the freedom to complain about how crappy the fireworks supposedly were in the first place.

I was going to get on a high horse about this, but as I thought about it, I had to conclude I am no better than everyone else.

IPeople 3n two weeks, I am going on the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with a group of riders who have come together to raise awareness about homelessness and raise money for MCSA, the homeless shelter where I work in Muscatine. In order to promote MCSA, some of the cyclists rode Friday in Muscatine’s Fourth of July parade.

It was an interesting vantage point from which to people watch. But as I thought about it this morning, it’s pretty obvious that any snarky comments I could have written here about the crowd would be more than offset by things some of them likely thought when they saw my big butt in bike shorts.

Something completely unrelated to anything I’ve written up to here reinforced this point for me this morning. While scanning Facebook, it showed a series of profile pictures of “People You May Know.”

Of course, one of them was a guy I knew in high school who had sent me a friend request that I approved awhile back. We weren’t really friends as kids and our lives didn’t appear to have much in common now, but I did enjoy some of the things he posted on Facebook. But even though we never communicated directly after becoming Facebook friends, he must not have liked what I post because the only way for him to be listed as someone I may know would be for him to have unfriended me. I didn’t unfriend him.

He unfriended me. How could this be? How dare he judge me the same way I may have been guilty of judging some of yesterday’s parade goers. Or the way many others appear to have judged their friends and neighbors who organized fireworks shows in cities and towns from sea to shining sea.

And as I thought of how to wrap up this blog post, which has already droned on for too long, I remembered an Internet meme I’ve seen several times lately. It seems to offer good advice for those of us who often automatically think of something critical to say:

Be Kind

It’s July 5. A new day. A new chance. I’m going to go out and do more than just seek out things to complain about. Won’t you please join me in that search?