Can I ask a friend
from college over to the barbeque tonight? asked Estelle at
breakfast. The day was July 4th.
name? asked her father, Max Stein.
His name is Richard.
He was in my poly-sci class. Hes very smart. Estelle had just
finished her first year at their local college, Sac State.
so. Ill put on a couple of extra hamburgers.
The Steiner family
tradition for July fourth was for Max to barbeque in the evening, then
theyd set off the fireworks for the kids, then go down to the corner with
their folding chairs to watch the big fireworks, visible over the trees from
the nearby park. The Steiners had moved to their Sacramento suburb ten years
ago. Max worked for the county, a personnel analyst. His wife Rita worked as a
Estelle has a boy
friend, said Josh, 12 years old.
Hes not my boy
friend. Hes just a friend. Anyway, Dad, I dont know if Richard will
eat hamburgers. Hes thinking of giving up meat and becoming a
vegan? asked Josh.
Someone who eats only
vegetables, said Max.
Ugh! said Josh,
who was finishing off a stack of pancakes with sausages. Thats
I can make him a
salad, said Rita.
Richard also says
that barbequing isnt healthy. It pollutes the
Well, said Max,
if he wants to come over hell have to put up with a little
Richard also says
that celebrating the fourth of July is boastful, like telling the world how
great we are.
We are great,
Your friend seems to
have a lot of opinions, said Rita.
I told you, hes
opinionated, said Max. Im not sure if thats the kind of
Boy friend or friend
I want you to have.
Dont you want
me to be independent? Isnt that whats this day is
Why did I expect you
to say something like that? Anyway, if he wants to come well put up with
him even though he doesnt exactly sound like a patriot.
remembered, said Rita. Max, did you remember to put our flag
I have. Ed had his
flag out already, as usual, so I put ours up. He turned to Estelle.
I hope Richard wont disapprove.
Hes never said
anything to me about flags.
Good. Then well
keep ours flying.
Rita spent the rest of the
day baking an apple pie. Josh, with the help of three neighborhood
friends who came over for the barbeque, assembled his fireworks . Max cleaned
his grille and checked his charcoal. They were all in the backyard and Max was
wondering what had happened to Estelle when she came out of the house, a tall,
lanky young man with a wisp of a beard behind her. Sorry Im
late, she said. I spent all afternoon persuading Richard to
Introductions were made.
Max shook Richards hand. To his surprise, Richards handshake was
pretty firm. I understand you dont approve of July 4th
barbecues, said Max.
It just seems
its like Uncle Sam is always going out of his way to beat his own
Its only once a
year, and its to celebrate becoming a free country.
But its not
free for everyone. African-Americans, for example.
I thought slavery was
abolished after the Civil War. African-Americans have the vote. And, as I
recall, we have an African-American president.
Progress has been
made but theres still a lot of discrimination, jobs, housing, wages. How
many African-Americans live in your neighborhood?
Foster family, said Estelle. Their daughter Emily is a friend of
Okay, said Max.
Lets not debate this all night. Its time to get the
And I have a salad
for you, Richard, Rita said.
Thats okay. I
can eat hamburgers. Im not a complete vegan yet
The burgers as always
tasted better coming hot off the grille. Max noticed that Richard had his fair
share of them and he also had a second slice of the apple pie, which was served
after. It was then time for the fireworks. Richard helped Josh and his friends
set them up and made sure they wasnt too close to them when he set them
off. Afterward, Max said, I guess you approve of
I really dont,
but if you have them you have to make sure youre safe.
Are you coming with
us to watch the big fireworks then?
I suppose so.
Theres a protest rally downtown, against Wall Street, but its too
late to go to that now.
What are you
You know, just the
way this country is run, Wall Street, Big Oil, all the other big companies, the
And here I thought we
were a democracy, or at least a republic. And dont we have unions, all
those small businesses, Apple and Google and, oh yes,
And people have the
right to protest, too, Dad, said Estelle.
Thank you, Miss
We should get
going, said Rita. The big fireworks start at nine.
Everyone trooped down to
the corner, where almost all their neighbors were already sitting on their
folding chairs. The sat in front to Ed Bertolis house and as usual Ed was
there to greet them. He was older than Max, was in the Air Force
during Korea, and was very proud of his service. It was a clear night,
pleasantly cool after the warm day. Sounds of music started to come
from the park. It was the Star-Spangled Banner, played every year before the
fireworks. Ed immediately sprang up from his chair and stood with his hand over
his heart. Max did the same and suddenly, unusual for him, felt a surge of
patriotism. This country may have its faults, he thought, but it was still the
greatest in the world. Despite what young people like Richard thought, it
wasnt run by any all-evil establishment. And Estelle was right, one of
its strengths was giving people like Richard the right to protest.
He glanced around and
saw that Estelle was standing and singing. Richard also was standing and
singing, although softly. Ill have to keep my eye on those two, thought
Max. The price of liberty was eternal vigilance; so was the cost of having an
independent-minded teen-age daughter. The Star-Spangled Banner ended and
everyone sat down. The fireworks began and they all oohed and aahed at this
years celebration of the land of the free and the home of the