Party in the USA

Good Letters | 7/18/2018 | Staff
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The day is hot and musty but everyone is celebrating. After all, everyone can enjoy a small town fireworks display, right?

I used to think so. But in revelatory moments, the sheen of this small town—with its beautiful park and festivities—is pulled back to reveal what was always present. Life isn’t always so bright for those who have been pushed to its edges.

Midwestern - Town - Wakes - Dawn - Light

My small Midwestern town wakes at dawn’s early light, gathering and preparing for Independence Day at the town park, named for a wealthy deceased resident. His entire family is remembered in the cemetery across the street from his park, their white lawn-level memorials the length of coffins, circling Greek columns like a sort of Midwestern Roman temple.

This native son and his park are the town’s pride and joy. Turtles sun on rocky patches by the pond and a family of geese grow and thrive from early spring to summer. The park boasts a trail of a million lights at Christmas, a public pool with a waterslide in summer, football and baseball stands, walking trails, and now, fireworks and festivities for Independence Day.

Husband - Blocks - House - Hill - Year

My husband and I walk the three blocks from our house on the hill, pushing our dozing one year old in the stroller. People, who’ve been at the park for hours stare at us, probably drained by the heat and anticipating the finale of the day. Some of them look weary in ways that have nothing to do with the heat.

When my husband tells a funny story during his sermon a few weeks ago about a time he was almost arrested for something he didn’t do, a woman in her nineties—who still dresses in plain Mennonite clothes—calls out so that those in the pews beside can hear: “If he’d been black, he’d be in jail.”

I feel safe in...
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