Bolivians tend to set politics aside on the 4th of July, I've found, and wish me "felicidades" on the national day of my country. There is an understanding that, politics and nationalism not withstanding, one's identity is deeply tied to one's country - the land, culture, and community in which a person is formed. I'm grateful for that, because, while I am wary when it comes to things patriotic, particularly in wartime, I love and miss the United States, and I have always enjoyed the 4th of July. What's not to like about barbecues and fireworks? So, to all my compatriotas, felicidades.
This year, I am particularly thinking about my Great Aunt Mary Moriarty, who was buried yesterday in New York. She truly loved the United States, and was a great internationalist at the same time. She lived two blocks from the UN (watched it go up - she'd lived in the same apartment since the 1930s). She spent summers studying in France in her 70s. When I was in Ossining, NY for my Maryknoll orientation (and she was in her 80s), she invited a bunch of us down to the city for a lecture on China. One of the central themes of her life, it seemed, was the construction of the United States, a land of immigrants united in a quest to create the first nation founded on an idea rather than an ethnic identity. We sometimes disagreed on the details of how to live out certain ideals (I think she thought I was crazy to move back to Bolivia). But I always felt the (sometimes maddening) need to take her opinions seriously at the very least. Most of all, though, Aunt Mary represented family to me. And whatever patriotism is supposed to look like, at its core, I suppose it has much in common with the bonds of family. I'll miss the fireworks tonight. But most of all, I'll miss Aunt Mary.
Here are a couple of videos to mark the day: