When times are low, as they unmistakably have been in Alexandria recently, sometimes a good old display of patriotism is just what the doctor ordered.
Yes, we are undeniably divided as a country right now between R and D, red and blue, coast and heartland. Alexandria is no different from the rest of the country in our divisions.
And yet, when we gather together to celebrate Independence Day, as we did Tuesday with fireworks, cookouts and parades or as we will Saturday at Alexandria’s annual birthday celebration, the focus is on our commonality as Americans. On these days of ritual festivities, we honor our national symbols and songs, those who worked and fought so valiantly more than 240 years ago for our independence and those who still sacrifice for our freedom and safety.
On days like these, we gather together in backyards for amateur fireworks shows, on the National Mall in D.C. or at Oronoco Bay Park in Alexandria for magnificent displays. In so doing, distinctions of race, class and political identity fade away. We are all simply Americans, having a good time together.
There is no doubt that the City of Alexandria, and the community of Del Ray in particular, has been rocked – first by the posting of racist flyers around town and then the June 14 shooting at Simpson Field by a seemingly deranged leftist.
The flyers were an apparent response, though no group or individuals have claimed responsibility, to altright leader Richard Spencer being angrily confronted in a local gym by Georgetown professor C. Christine Fair. The shooting was horrific and left emotional scars on many in the community, to go along with bullet holes in buildings and fences.
Right then left, profanity then violence. The onslaught feels relentless and we are all tired of it.
So head to Oronoco Bay Park on Saturday night. Listen to our local officials make patriotic speeches. Listen to the Alexandria Symphony play songs that celebrate our remarkable country. Watch the fireworks and, yes, have a piece of birthday cake.
This week, as we celebrate our amazing city and beloved country, would be a good time to renew our vows. Let’s recommit to identifying as Americans and Alexandrians first, and as part of any group or party second. Let’s relegate our views to being just that, opinions we hold, and not the prism that informs our self-image.
Unity is a conscious choice, as is honoring a commitment of any kind. During this week of celebrating our country and city, let’s all make a renewed effort to focus on what binds us, rather than what divides us.
We will be both happier and safer if we do.