Americans can disagree over the extent liberty can be granted and whether such liberty must be grounded in biblical doctrine or constitutional argument, but the Fourth of July remains a time when we can surely all pause in our legal and political wrangling long enough to celebrate those freedoms that we already have. They are, after all, considerable.
And they were won through struggle at home and abroad.
Many republics have arisen since the Age of Enlightenment inspired the pursuit of liberty in America, but none has entirely eclipsed this nation when it comes to an appreciation of what we have and our fear that we might be getting the business of judging freedoms all wrong as we move further into the 21st century. It’s good that we constantly subject our laws to constitutional scrutiny.
Amid all that, the Fourth of July is a time for good feelings about what our forefathers accomplished. And if it requires, say, a corn dog eating contest to help mark the occasion, why not? The business of a democracy is hard work, but this weekend is a time for most of us to play and celebrate.
This year’s Fourth of July celebration in Waco marks a change for the better. The popular “Fourth on the Brazos” moves from Indian Spring Park a mile or so downstream to the McLane Stadium environs. Crowd protocol developed for Baylor University football games can be readily adapted for the festivities, and the new locale offers a stunning backdrop, complete with the Interstate 35 bridge over the Brazos River glowing red, white and blue, adding to the scene in patriotic fashion.
The switch strikes us as wise for a number of reasons beyond the fact it reaffirms the partnership between the city of Waco and Baylor. Previous Fourths in Indian Spring Park sometimes bordered on being unmanageable, particularly on the Suspension Bridge. Problems have ranged from youths throwing lit firecrackers at seniors seated on the bridge to, 14 years ago, the stabbings of four black teens in what the evidence then indicated was a racially motivated conflict.
The new environs will also offer more room to spread out. McLane Stadium’s Touchdown Alley will be a busy command central for Fourth on the Brazos frolic with food trucks on the stadium side of the space and a performance stage closer to Baylor’s new Clyde Hart Track & Field Stadium. The space will have an area for children’s games and activities. No seating will be allowed in the stadium itself, but the Baylor campus across the river will be open for fireworks viewing. It’s a beautiful campus, so be as good a neighbor as Baylor is and clean up your litter.
Gates open at 6 p.m., the corn dog eating contest is at 7:15, LC Rocks starts performing at 7:30, and the Waco Community Band begins playing at 9, with fireworks beginning at 9:15 p.m. Enjoy all this patriotic pride in the spirit in which it is intended — and shelve the sparring over politics and future rights till next week.