"Freedom is never free." -- Anonymous author
When kids turn 21, they want to let the world know they are no longer kids. But when they reach retirement age, the subject is rarely broached. In either case, most folks know when their birthdays roll around whether they wish to acknowledge them or not.
Speaking of birthdays, did you know our country turned 236 years old yesterday? Or were you too busy vacationing or slaving over your Weber grilling hamburgers to give it much thought. And did it cross your mind even once to think about our men and women in uniform at home and abroad that allowed you to enjoy your holiday without disruption?
If you answered no, you are not alone. I'd guess a majority of our nation's population would've also answered no, and that's most unfortunate.
When I was growing up in Oakland during the '30s, the Fourth of July was celebrated in traditional fashion. We didn't have any of the amenities available today, but who would have known the difference. And besides, we still had fun.
All the businesses closed, including my dad's mom-and-pop store, and most of the townsfolk lined the sidewalks along Broadway from early morning to watch a parade of dignitaries followed by marching bands, vintage cars, animals, acrobats and Uncle Sam on stilts who signaled the end of the procession.
Even the panhandlers who camped in alleyways at the lower end of town mingled among the crowd to enjoy the
When it was finally over, our family trekked to Lake Merritt where we spent the remainder of the day feasting on the picnic lunch my mother had already prepared of sandwiches, chips, rice balls stuffed with pickled plums, and other assorted Asian and Western delicacies using our fingers, forks and chopsticks, whichever worked best.
As the sun slowly gave way to darkness, fireworks of different art forms and colors lit up the skies, drawing oohs and aahs from the thousands of spectators who formed an unbroken chain around the lake.
And in the background could be heard the strains of military and march tunes composed by the late March King, John Philip Sousa, that enlivened the spirits of youngsters and oldsters alike.
Years later, when I graduated high school and enrolled at UC Berkeley, I was required -- like all first-year students -- to take written tests in Subject A (for English proficiency) and U.S. history. Those failing the two written tests were required to add English and U.S. history to their first-year studies.
I had no qualms about testing for English proficiency ... but U.S. history?
I passed the English written test but reneged on American history which, I will admit, was one of my weak subjects in high school.
Needless to say, I found the college history course much more interesting, and was especially pleased to note that my family was among those Japanese folks interned in American detention camps during World War II that played a small but significant role in the annals of our country's past.
Prior to World War II, citizens of Japan who immigrated to the United States were denied American citizenship based strictly on their race. My parents were among that group. It wasn't until more than 10 years after the war ended that the law was stricken and my parents were able to apply for citizenship.
For them and the thousands of other first-generation Japanese living in the United States that meant countless hours of studying the U.S. Constitution and structure of our government, as well as understanding and memorizing 22 Amendments, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the people elected and appointed to lead our nation.
Everyone was given the option to take the test in English or their native tongue. Most like my folks chose English. And as a special appendage, they all joined in singing The Star Spangled Banner -- in English, of course!
Thereafter, my folks made it a point to vote in every election. And to ensure I did likewise, they had me go over every election ballot with them and accompany them to the poll where we all registered to vote.
Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at email@example.com.