As chaos breaks out in the largest city in the Arab world, Americans are bracing to celebrate our nation's independence, the 150th anniversary of the very bloody Battle of Gettysburg is being regaled and denizens of the nation's capital are preparing for the 40th anniversary of quasi-freedom.
There's certainly much to celebrate this Fourth of July, as God and our ancestors have blessed us with the opportunity to ring in another, replete with folks who choose to raise Cain and those who choose to make merry like Christmas.
For residents of the nation's capital, most of us are indeed grateful our hometown plays host to people from around the world who come here for the birthday party of all birthday parties (and we relish every red cent they leave here).
While Washington, D.C., was conceived on July 16, 1790, with the Residence Act under President Washington, the federal city has donned many governance masks since then, with various forms of elected and appointed caretakers, earning presidential electors.
Things changed drastically after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, when the push for black power led Congress to push for quasi-freedom from the U.S. Constitution.
Called the D.C. Home Rule Act, then-President Nixon signed the legislation into law on Dec. 24, 1973, giving D.C. residents the opportunity to elect a mayor and a 13-member lawmaking body. The measure, however, left Congress with its full constitutional powers to oversee D.C. affairs.
That is why D.C. officials, statehood supporters and voting rights activists are already fired up for Independence Day with a petition drive that asks the District's nonvoting congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, to reintroduce legislation that would exempt residents from federal income taxes.
Kymone Freeman, co-founder of We Act Radio, said there's not much to celebrate this Fourth but there's lots to protest, including snooping by the National Security Agency and the "hypocrisy of democracy."
"If you're not outraged about something, you're not paying attention," Mr. Freeman said. "That's my bumper sticker."
For Mr. Freeman, those somethings include everything from civil rights violations and the Fourth Amendment infringements to government spying and the lack of voting rights.
"People should be participating in some form of protest tomorrow [July 4th]" he said. "I think that we are run by a plutocracy, the corporate elite."
In addition to gathering signatures for the No Vote-No Tax petition, Mr. Freeman and others will bike to Freedom Plaza with a ride-along sound system playing an NSA mix tape of such songs as "Somebody's Watching Me."
It's all part of the growing pains, turning 40 and nearing middle age.
When America hit 40, we still were at odds with the Brits, having just ended the War of 1812, although we long had declared ourselves free.
It's highly unlikely the protests held Thursday will be as resounding as the overtures of 1812 (ha, ha).
For sure, though, birthdays are always worthy of celebrations — and worthy of homage that you will live to see the next one.
Happy Birthday, my fellow Americans.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached art firstname.lastname@example.org.
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