As a native Bristolian who now lives somewhere else, I congratulate all Bristolians on another successful celebration of America’s Independence Day — and I ask you to stop this shameless self-promotion as America’s most patriotic town.
There are three things about patriotism Bristolians need to keep in mind:
- Patriotism is much more than parades, flags, and red, white and blue bunting and pavement stripes.
- Proclaiming any town the most patriotic town in America denigrates the patriotism of every other community in America and the people who live in them.
- Patriotism is not a contest where one community wins and all the others lose.
The national D-Day Memorial in Befdord, Virginia, offers an interesting perspective. The memorial is located in Bedford because on D-Day, that community of 3,000 lost 19 men — in one day, a total of 22 in the Normandy invasion. “No community… in America… lost as many sons as Bedford.” * Who will be the one to deliver the news to the people of Bedford that their patriotism is second-rate?
Bristol has a long, varied, rich history that is, for the most part, a source of great pride. It holds the unbroken and unchallenged record for annual Independence Day celebrations, doing so since 1785, in a manner today that is unrivaled by any other community in America. It is the patriotic celebration, of which Bristolians are justifiably proud, that should be proclaimed — for its longevity, inclusiveness, breadth of events, community fundraising, reunion and all-around good fun.
Time-honored patriotic celebrations, no matter how well-intentioned or well done, do not equate to patriotism. If they did, by that logic, Catholics of New Orleans could claim to be the nation’s best Catholics because their annual multi-day Mardi Gras celebration is the best pre-lenten party in America. Or Catholics of Rio de Janeiro could proclaim themselves the world’s best Catholics because their annual Carnaval is the world’s unrivaled pre-lenten festival.
Not by accident does the Welcome to Bristol sign in front of Roger Williams University read “Home of America’s Oldest Independence Day Celebration.” Bristolians should stick to facts — commemorating America’s Independence Day is what you do better than anyone else.
Thomas C. Brown, Jr.
(Copyright 2014 Thomas C. Brown, Jr.)
* Alex Kershaw, The Bedford Boys, (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003) p. 208