Summer in America is neatly bookended by two long weekends, and then there is one that marks the middle of summer- the upcoming July 4th weekend. It commemorates the independence from subjugation by a colonial power, so many years ago, and hence it is celebrated all around the country with great zest. I will never forget the splendid Bicential celebrations in New York City in 1976 – an era that felt safer and calmer- when sailing ships from all over the world sailed into NYC harbor. Supermarkets are packed as everyone shops for their favorite barbecue day, whether it is in the backyard or the beach. Families gather together to mark a happy summer. Fireworks start popping up everywhere long before the weekend. Our family will be celebrating together at my daughter’s Manhattan place, and we are all grateful and excited even though our beach plan had to be abandoned due to the rain and cool weather, which thankfully broke a long heat spell.
This summer feels special and a blessing, as it comes on the heels of a long COVID lockdown. The relief on people’s faces is visible. The bookings of restaurants and vacation destinations are trying hard to catch up to the latent demand. Manhattan- my favorite place- is hopping again. Retirees are making bucket lists again and hope to fulfil them real soon. Family and friends are actually making international travel plans, such as our dear friends Sajjad and Fauzia. And while some countries are still in lockdown or have travel restrictions, we hope that this will end soon too. It seems as if humanity has been given the gift of a “normal”, yet different, life back thankfully.
And yet, the excessive heat this summer seems like another warning signal to all 7 plus billion of us! I had never heard of “heat domes”, which seem to be hovering over the Northwest. Imagine triple digits without air conditioning, which is normal for many in the Global South, but certainly very foreign for Americans. Let us just pray that we can undo these heat-domes with enlightened climate healing policies. Can we reduce our consumption, our waste, our heedless way of living? It is wonderful to talk to friends who are reducing water use, plastic use and overall wasteful spending. We should have a Facebook page for sharing tips and ideas so as to inform and motivate us. There is an intrinsic reward for challenging our automatic habits and when we use resources mindfully, which will sustain life on the planet for future generations. The other day I heard about a laundry detergent sheet that would eliminate laundry detergent bottles, and I felt encouraged and hope to switch soon.
And as always, we must remind ourselves of the privilege of living in a relatively safe place. Let us hope we keep it safe and fair for all, and continue to perfect our Union (as President Obama said) that was founded on noble principles. It is a time to be grateful for America, a unique global experiment in the history of the world. It has welcomed every race and faith (not without paying their dues in terms of discrimination and sometimes persecution sooner or later) to its shores and offered citizenship and rewards for hard work and civic responsibilities. May it shift its foreign policies also to focus more on peace not war. May those who have to flee their homes be able to stay and live decent lives – and may we increase our compassion and mercy. One book worth checking out is “A Hope more powerful than the Sea” by Melissa Fleming (https://www.google.com/…/A_Hope_More…/BfGdDAAAQBAJ…) which is about a young Syrian girl who was one of 11 survivors of a boat carrying 500 refugees that capsized, and how she saved a baby girl on that ill-fated journey. God Bless America and God Bless the World. Have a fantastic celebration weekend family and friends!