At the Union Common in Marlborough (intersection of Main and Bolton Streets) is a rather interesting bell and tower called the John Brown Bell. The story goes that during the US Civil War, Company I from the 13th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia was given the task of removing from Harper's Ferry items from the US Arsenal which John Brown had captured in 1859. A bell was to be brought back to Marlborough for their fire engine house. On the plaque where it now stands is inscribed: "Symbol of a nation's efforts to obtain freedom and equality for its people".
When you think of July 4th in America, you think of sun, fireworks, bands, parades, and barbeque. Well this year we didn't get all of those things. On July 3rd we went to Devens for their annual festivities of fireworks and the Metropolitan Wind Symphony playing all sorts of patriotic and toe tapping music. Unfortunately, we had been having a week of late day thunderstorms and one big one rolled in before the show began and they basically told us to leave. So we did. But friends of ours came later and the show and fireworks eventually went off. This is usually a fantastic event because members of the Massachusetts State Police and Army and Marine Reserves display equipment and talk to kids. It is a great opportunity for children to meet those who protect us, and it is so fitting they are there for a July 4th celebration.
Next up was July 4th and we had several local festivities from which to choose. There were festivities in Harvard, Bolton, and Acton. We decided on the Lincoln parade, but that was kind of drizzly and we skipped it. Fortunately, the sun broke through the clouds in the afternoon and the Sudbury parade went off without a hitch. There were no photographers where I was (towards the end of the route), but there were plenty of photo opportunities. We met several interesting people, saw a wonderful parade complete with floats, bands, and the famous Klein Unicycle Family, and went home for hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.
Of course Independence Day is much more than going to parades, although that is a big part of it. It's part celebration. But also it's part reflection, or at least it should be. In Lincoln, they read the Declaration of Independence before their parade and I think that's a fine tradition. In Sudbury, former servicemen marched as well as Minutemen who all reminded us what many have sacrificed for our freedom.
In case you are wondering, the Declaration of Independence is indeed dated July 4, 1776. You can find all sorts of information at this link. I admit I cannot remember having fully read it until today. While reading this document, I was struck by a conflict. On the one hand I felt proud that our states have rights and we have freedom. On the other, I felt unsettled that the minimalist government envisioned by our forefathers has become an utter monstrosity. Of course the other conflict is that women and blacks were not counted as being "equal". Another is that all the signers from Massachusetts (John Adams, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Elbridge Gerry, and Robert Treat Paine) graduated from Harvard which is a bastion of liberalism.