Celebrating during a Pandemic

This Saturday is the Fourth of July: America’s Independence Day.

It’s a day for picnics and parades, barbecues and ice cream. We celebrate with fireworks and carnivals, picnics and concerts, fairs and baseball games.


This year will be different.

Plans and Parade Permits

COVID-19 pandemic map: cases per 100,000 population June 30, 2020The COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress.

I think we’ll eventually have a vaccine that can help folks avoid the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or not die when they’re infected. But a ‘someday’ vaccine won’t help us today.

I figure that helps explains why so many Fourth of July celebrations are being postponed or canceled.

The good news is that we’re living in the Information Age.

Folks in Seattle, or pretty much anywhere that’s connected to the Internet, can watch virtual fireworks. Gemma Alexander’s article talks about that.

The not-so-good news is that humans are social critters. Which isn’t a bad thing, by itself.

But being social, we like getting together in big crowds. Most of us. Which isn’t good for individual or community health. Not when something like the SARS-CoV-2 virus is loose.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Fourth of July plans aren’t as irresponsible as they may seem.

I gather that this year they’re making their pyrotechnic display a three day affair: July third, fourth and fifth. With reservations required. The idea is to keep crowd density down to moderately safe levels.

And Arizona’s authorities might have cancelled fireworks shows anyway. Much of the state is tinder-dry. One wayward spark could start a wildfire.

Which brings me to Juneau, Alaska.

Blow Hot, Blow Cold

Juneau's harbor: boats and fireworks.
(From Heather Bryant, via KTOO, used w/o permission.)

I don’t envy folks in Juneau. They won’t have a Fourth of July parade this year. That seems to be a done deal.

The city’s annual fireworks show has been an on-again, off-again affair.


Juneau, Alaska, looking north on South Franklin Street.
(From Alan Wu, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Apparently Juneau’s civic leaders announced that they would put on the fireworks show.

Then they voted on an emergency ordinance that would have okayed the display and required folks at the show to wear face masks.

When the dust settled, the ordinance hadn’t passed.

Juneau’s leadership then announced that they wouldn’t have the Independence Day fireworks. That was on June 30, 2020.

Maybe they’ll change their minds again.

Or maybe not.

Parade Permit Perplexity

Juneau, Alaska: 2013 Fourth or July Parade color guard marching past City Hall.
(From Greg Culley/KTOO, used w/o permission.)
(Color guard marching past City Hall in Juneau’s 2013 Fourth of July parade.)

Meanwhile, someone in the Juneau area thought the city’s Fourth of July parade mattered.

When city hall cancelled the event, Ray Rusaw could have posted screed online, thrown rocks at city hall or quietly sulked.

Or he could have decided that Juneau’s leaders must be right: that the COVID-19 pandemic made a parade impossible.

Instead, he started organizing a short parade in the Mendenhall Valley. From the sounds of it, he followed proper procedure: talking to local non-government groups and asking the police department about getting a parade permit.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

“…But Rusaw said he must have misunderstood the Juneau Police Department when he originally reached out about his plans. At the time, he didn’t think he needed a permit.

“But as it turns out, he does. Police Lt. Krag Campbell told Rusaw last week the city will not issue him a parade permit….”
(Adelyn Baxter, KTOO)

A quick skim of the next few KTOO paragraphs told me that the Juneau PD’s lieutenant Krag threatened anyone caught parading with a citation.

Street Legal Vehicles and Skimmed News

Edison Lee comic: does anyone even know what truth looks like any more?Posting a screed, denouncing the Juneau PD’s threats against parades, free speech and folks having fun was an option.

So was re-reading the paragraphs, which is what I did.

Lieutenant Campbell wasn’t nearly as draconian as my skimmed version of the news suggested.

“…’In absence of (a) parade permit, what somebody could do though is they could have a line of vehicles that are … decorated, so long as they’re vehicles that are allowed to be on the roadway and they can just drive their normal route and just by obeying all the traffic laws,’ Campbell said.

“Campbell said anyone operating an unlicensed vehicle or walking in the road during the parade could be issued a citation….”
(Adelyn Baxter, KTOO)

A tip of the hat to Mr. Rusaw, saying that he must have misunderstood the Juneau PD.

He’s being diplomatic or cautious, or something else. My opinion of which it is depends partly on assumptions I make.

I could assume that whoever Mr. Rusaw communicated with at the Juneau PD told him that he didn’t need a permit.

Maybe because he wasn’t paying attention to Mr. Rusaw’s question, or spoke from ignorance, or lied. Or that the JPD decided to reverse its parade policy, or was ordered to.

Or I could assume that Mr. Rusaw has been warned about contradicting the official version of reality, and didn’t want to run afoul of Juneau’s rulers.

Or that I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion.

The first two options offer opportunities to develop my flair for the dramatic.

The third isn’t nearly as exciting. But I think acknowledging insufficient knowledge makes more sense.

Besides, I figure we’re exposed to quite enough baseless opinions and ersatz facts. Make that too much.

Vanilla Ice and Common Sense

Juneau, Alaska isn’t the only place with Fourth of July jitters and cancelled events.

I think MPR’s Matt Mikus article has good advice: including “If you feel sick, it’s better to opt out of the festivities and seek a COVID-19 test.”

And a tip of the hat to Trace William Cowen #BLACKLIVESMATTER, for updating his discussion of those who would “risk their lives and the lives of those around them by seeing Vanilla Ice perform on Friday in Austin, Texas.”

Seems that Vanilla Ice, Robert Matthew Van Winkle, decided to cancel. Considering what’s been happening lately, I’d say his move makes sense.

Patriotic? Me?!

United States of America flag.

I was born during the Truman administration and experienced the Sixties as a teen.

I wasn’t the craziest of ‘those crazy kids.’ But I wasn’t the most blandly conformist. By either or any side’s standards.


Kill A Commie For Christ, plate sixteen from Peace is Patriotic; by William Weege. (1967)By the time I was in high school, the words “patriot” and “patriotic” had been hijacked by one bunch of American ideologues. I’m not sure when that happened.

The words had several meanings, depending on who used them.

Including, I think, the following.

  • Patriot
    1. A ‘real’ American, who fervently yearns for a yesteryear that never was
    2. A hate-filled member of the racist oppressor class
    3. “one who loves and defends his or her country”
      (Princeton’s WordNet)
  • Patriotic
    1. Inflamed by (self) righteous zeal against those who don’t agree with my side
    2. Driven by greed, ripping crusts of bread from the bleeding lips of wage slaves
    3. “Inspired by love for your country”
      (Princeton’s WordNet)

Definitions 1 and 2 for “patriot” and “patriotic” didn’t make sense to me in my teens. They still don’t, although I try to remember that zealots may feel that they are right. Or left, and that’s another topic. Topics.

Princeton’s WordNet definitions strike me as more reasonable. I’d probably be more comfortable with “patriot” and “patriotism” if I hadn’t had the Sixties experience. I talked about that last year. (July 4, 2019)

Viewpoints and Obligations

Satellite composite image of the contiguous United States.On the whole, I like being an American.

But I don’t believe and broadcast current rumors of communist conspiracies.

Or demonize those who don’t share my fears and forebodings.

Maybe that brands me as a “patriot” in the pejorative sense. Or makes me look like a commie sympathizer, fifth columnist or whatever the current epithets are.

Or maybe not. I like to think that most folks, American and otherwise, aren’t batty.

“Communist conspiracies?!” I know: that sounds like something from the 1950s. But I still see strident warnings of the communist menace posted online. Along with America’s perennial End Times Bible Prophecies. Sometimes commie plots and End Times Bible Prophecies.

And that’s yet another topic.

So, am I patriotic?

Using the “inspired by love of your country” definition, and assuming that love of country stops well short of idolatry: yes, I’m patriotic. So I try to be a good citizen.

I could be a good citizen without being Catholic. But as a Catholic, being a good citizen isn’t an option. It’s an obligation.

Among other things, I’m expected to balance individual and community needs, and respect others. I should take an active part in public life, contributing to the good of society “in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), 19051912, 1915, 2239. 2242)

I’m obliged to recognize humanity’s solidarity and respect authority. Within reason. (Catechism, 1778, 1915, 18971917, 19391942, 2199, 22382243)

It boils down to acting as if loving God and my neighbors matters, seeing everyone as my neighbor and treating others the way I want them to treat me. (Matthew 5:4344, 7:12, 22:3640, Mark 12:2831; 10:2527, 2937; Catechism, 1789)

I think that’s a good idea. Not easy, but a good idea.

Big Country, Small World

DisneyWorld's It's a Small World attraction.
(From DisneyWorld, used w/o permission.)
(DisneyWorld’s “It’s a Small World,” in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park.)

“It’s a Small World (After All)” may be the single most-performed and most-translated piece of music on Earth.

“It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all…”
(“It’s a Small World After All,” via Metrolyrics)

I rather like the song, which is just as well. The chorus has been playing in my memory, ever since I started writing this bit. Playing over and over and over ….

Disney made the original Small World ride for the 1964 world’s fair. Since then, it’s been moved, remodeled and replicated in Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.1

The “Small World” theme of world peace and solidarity strikes me as a good idea. Which may help explain why I don’t mind living in a country where so many folks aren’t Minnesotans.

Living in Small Town Minnesota, and Loving It

American flag in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. July 2017I’ve been living in a central Minnesota town for roughly a third of century. Sauk Centre isn’t perfect. But I’d rather live here than anywhere else.

On the other hand, we experience some of the world’s problems.

Some folks around here have caught the COVID-19 disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we live and do business. My routine dental checkup this week, for example, involved face masks and old-school procedures that generate less airborne spray.

I’m not sure why we haven’t hosted riots.

Can’t say that I’ll be disappointed if we skip that sort of experience.

I was going somewhere with this. Let’s see. Independence Day and COVID-19. Canceled fireworks and Vanilla Ice. Defining patriotism. Disney’s “A Small World.” Right.

“…My Family Celebrating!”

'False Alarm on the Fourth' cartoon for Puck. (1902)
(From Udo Keppler, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

“A False Alarm on the Fourth,” Udo Keppler, Puck (1902)
“Uncle Sam — It’s all right! There’s no fighting! The noise you hear is just my family celebrating!”

The idea that an American isn’t necessarily English has been around for some time. With varying degrees of acceptance.

I think it’s a fine idea, but I would. Before crossing the Atlantic, my ancestors lived in Norway, Ireland and Scotland.

That may be why I like Udo Keppler’s 1902 cartoon.

Even though it doesn’t conform to contemporary shibboleths regarding how America, Americans and taboo technology must be depicted.

It doesn’t reflect the segregated America of my youth, either.

Neither of those offenses against propriety bother me.

The United States isn’t the world’s largest country by population or area. China and India have more citizens. China, Canada, Antarctica and Russia have more square miles. Or square kilometers, inches, furlongs, whatever.

Antarctica isn’t a country, but seven nations claim part of the continent. Argentina and Chile, Spain claimed Antarctic territory. And I’m drifting off-topic.

The point I was trying to make is that the United States is a big country. Not the biggest in the world, but extensive.

Ethnically, my country is about 73.1% white. Partly because many early immigrants came from Europe.2

And partly, I think, because many of us have forgotten how important Europe’s ethnic divisions were. To some of us. I’ve talked about that before. (June 28, 2020)

I think there’s considerable hope in so many of us seeing the Irish, Germans, Italians, Swiss, French, Danes and others as simply “white.” It’s arguably a step toward recognizing all of us as, well, as being “us.” Not “us and them.”

That 73.1% slice of the American pie with congenital melanin deficiency may account for the notion that “American” is an ethnicity. Like Japanese or Polynesian.

I don’t see it that way.

Something I like about being an American is that I could be an American without having English ancestors. Or European ones.

I like living in a country where everyone doesn’t look pretty much like me. I’d be concerned if folks stopped trying to immigrate to America. And that’s yet again another topic.


(From Currier and Ives, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
(Currier and Ives, “Washington’s entry into New York….” (ca. 1857))

America! Land of the burger and fries! Home of the Super Bowl and Hollywood Squares!

From the rockbound coast of Main to Florida’s shifting sands, from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to the Seattle Center Monorail: once more, Americans celebrate our nation’s Independence Day.

Which, for some of us, means buying Stars and Stripes Uncle Sam American Flag Coolers, Patriotic Malibu Sunglasses and LED Light-Up Patriotic USA Hats.

I checked, and those seasonal items are available again this year. Along with a variety of holiday-themed face masks.3

Cheez-It patriotic sculpture: Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln; carved from 700 pounds of cheddar cheese.I looked for this year’s Cheez-It patriotic Independence Day sculpture.

Alas! It was not to be found. Not by me, at any rate.

Maybe the company decided that their Cheez-It Bowl gave them better publicity.

Or maybe they figured that commissioning a Independence Day statue would have an unfavorable benefit-risk ratio. Given today’s anti-statue sentiments.

And yet, I am undismayed!

There may come a day when patriotic cheese sculptures are forgotten.

But that day is not today.

There may come a day when LED patriotic hats no longer shine as a beacon of liberty.

But that day is not today.

There may come a day when Uncle Sam American Flag Coolers no longer keep their cool.

But that day is not today.

Today — or, rather, tomorrow — we shall gather once again to celebrate America’s founding. And, if we’re smart, wear a face mask while doing so.

And In Conclusion

American troops celebrating Independence Day Celebration in Paris, France, (1918)I was going to talk about another year when America’s Independence Day came during a pandemic: the 1918 “Spanish flu.”

That will wait for another day, since I want to get this post out on July 3.

Today, I’ll settle for saying that the H1N1 influenza A virus isn’t just like the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that we’ve learned a great deal since 1918: and haven’t stopped learning, which is a good thing.

Posts, vaguely-related and otherwise:

1 It’s a small Disney world:

2 Statistics, mostly:

3 Holiday kitsch:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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3 Responses to Celebrating during a Pandemic

  1. Speaking of patriot stuff, I’m reminded of how the word “nationalism” is similarly treated today. I guess it’s a postmodern thing, then? Speaking of postmodernism, though, if this were my younger self talking, I’d probably rant about the very obvious here (e.g. “Postmodernism is just moral relativist crap thinking that everything’s a void, yadda yadda yadda”), but now that I’m trying to work postmodernism with God as the anchor for it, well…now I’m imagining God popping out of an image through a torn hole on it like John Cena going “Are you sure about that?” XD

Thanks for taking time to comment!