B-Movies, Beer, and Being Free


Everyone’s trying to get out of Washington and we’re the only schmucks trying to get in. ~from “Independence Day”

It's like The A-Team, sorta...

Most people have their traditions on holidays…turkey for Thanksgiving, Aunt Rita playing “White Christmas” on the piano in December, making that rare trip to Mass for Easter. Me? Every time the 4th of July rolls around, I have two very specific rituals.

The first one, which I’ve conducted faithfully every year since 1997, is to watch the titular Independence Day. It’s about as American as you can get. Stuff blowing up? Check. Underdog heroes battling superior foes? Yep. Wisecracking heroes and sarcastic sidekicks? Plenty of ’em. A charismatic president who’s willing to put himself on the front lines? We’re working on that one.

It’s a stupid movie, when you stop to think about it. The idea that a race of aliens so advanced to conquer half the galaxy and travel millions of light-years would have somehow neglected to install the latest edition of Norton Antivirus in their mothership, well, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one. And I won’t even start on the whole idea of Brent Spiner living undetected out at Area 51. That’s a subject for a different blog.

Anyway, I watch Bill Pullman give his rousing pre-dawn speech every year and it gets me every time. Maybe I’m a sap. Maybe I’m one of those people who still gets chills listening to The Star-Spangled Banner and seeing fighter jets scream across the sky. Does that make me strange? If it does, I’m glad to be strange. Which leads me to my second tradition.

I also spend part of my 4th reading the Declaration of Independence as well as the Preamble to the Constitution. I’m a history minor and always was a history geek, but there’s more to it than just that. These words which we still live by today were written by a group of men who knew they were risking their lives in doing so. They weren’t perfect…none of us are…but somehow they knew they were setting a framework for the greatest experiment in the history of the world. Almost 250 years later, we’re still trying to live up to the ideals in these documents. Equality. Freedom. Justice for all, not just a privileged few.

Personally I don’t know if Americans can ever live up to the beauty of those words. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (One important subtlety to remember: the Declaration does not guarantee us happiness, but the chance to find it.)

While we enjoy a day off from work or school, setting fireworks and watching borderline B-movies, maybe we’ll take the opportunity to remember what the 4th is really about. Sacrificing some of our own comforts for an idea much greater than that.

“Freedom,” said a character in a recent re-run of Quantum Leap I caught, “is the first thing we are born with, and the hardest to hold onto.”

I couldn’t agree more. Now that I’m done being slightly philosophical, I’m going to go catch some alien mayhem and hamburgers. Happy 4th to all my American readers!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on July 4, 2011.

9 Responses to “B-Movies, Beer, and Being Free”

  1. I read the Declaration today! And I also did my usual tradition, which is to watch YANKEE DOODLE DANDY. I don’t live in the U.S., so today was a regular working day, but I was able to take off a bit early and come home and have my own celebration. I also watched the youtube video of Sandi Patty’s rendition of THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER from my favorite 4th of July weekend ever, Liberty Weekend (1986), which was like a 4-day celebration of the restoration and re-opening of the Statue of Liberty. I was sobbing during that song, so you aren’t the only one who gets emotional! And if you get a chance to watch Liza Minnelli singing NEW YORK, NEW YORK from that event, well it just may be the greatest live performance ever of a song! I’m serious, and I’m not even a big Liza fan, but this thing is almost indescribable, that’s how good it is. And I’ve downloaded 2 clips of fireworks from that weekend and getting ready to watch them…..all of this on my “beamer”/projector thing so it is like having big-screen TV. God bless America!

    • One minor correction: I looked up some things about Liberty Weekend, and I think it was more like just a 2-3 day event, but I think it included something like 17 hours of broadcast coverage on ABC. Anyway, it was a great time….I felt a twinge of emotion every time I kept seeing the twin towers while I was watching the fireworks going off all around them. I believe the fireworks display for this event was the largest one in American history up to that time.

  2. I am watching Independence Day as I read this!
    I watch it every 4th as well.
    Enjoy your burgers and Happy Fourth of July!

  3. Great post, and I love that movie. Cheesy or not. One of the movies I can watch over and over again. :0)

  4. Some of the best movies are b-movies

  5. Nicely stated and I DO love that particular cheesy movie. Thanks!

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