Forgive me if I’m being presumptuous, but I just can’t help feeling part of this town’s historical identity, and I’m here to say that Las Vegas is a great place to celebrate the Fourth of July.
You want patriotism? We’ve got it in droves. Las Vegas has always provided more than its fair share of fighters of our wars, believers in our causes, and doers for our ideals. We’ve got veterans and peaceniks, each of them standing for what they love about our country, sometimes standing as one and the same.
You want celebration? We’ve got the fiestas, which started as a religious festival and grew into much more. It’s become a celebration of our national heritage and our local cultural upbringing.
Want to commemorate the Declaration of Independence? Las Vegas stands as a living, breathing testament to the ideals advanced in that great document. This town was first built to advance Spanish interests, then we became Mexicans. Then, Americanos, not necessarily by choice but because of a backhanded blessing from providence. We now stand as U.S. citizens, proud of not only who we are but where we came from.
You want a declaration of independence? Talk with a free-thinking Vegan sometime. We not only believe in equality, we jockey for it, fight about it, dream of it. We even laugh over it.
This is a city of divisions, and yet we share so much. We are generous beyond expectations, but we fight among ourselves. Then we come out of the ring shaking hands.
We’re Hispanic and Anglo and a whole lot more. We’re mostly Catholic, with some Jewish roots. We’re old hippies and aging warriors. We can be well educated or functionally illiterate, bilingual yet single-minded in our view that this community is wonderful, or pitiful, or it just is what it is.
Some of us came from land grants, others from land grabs. Still others are land-less, though we still have a home. A few of us just wandered in and decided to stay. We have a history of being local vigilantes, state movers-and-shakers and national heroes. We are a people like no other, and yet we’re nobody special.
And, maybe, just maybe, we like it that way.
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I’m no authority on the matter, but I don’t think this nation’s Founding Fathers really knew what they were doing when they signed off on the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Sure, some of them had an idea of its far-reaching consequences, but I suspect most of them were more caught up in the harsh realities of the moment. They were, after all, committing treason, and if they lost the war they were inciting, they were likely to be executed for it.
As it turned out, they weren’t just starting a revolutionary war, they were creating a revolution in thinking.
They laid out an ideal that outgrew their own perspectives. Their mere suggestion that “all men are created equal” began to liberate others. Citizenship by birthright; the rights of the working class; equality for women, first with the right to vote then with the right to break the norms of tradition; civil rights and justice for all people of color; gay, lesbian and transgender rights; equality for people with handicapping conditions — all these liberation movements and more were inspired by the notion that everyone is, and should be, equal.
Our nation is stronger because over the years we have broadened the interpretation of what it means to be created equal. We would not have become the great nation we are had we gone the other way.
Tom McDonald is the Optic’s editor and publisher. He may be reached at 505-425-6796, ext. 237, or email@example.com.