Sometime between the first flag unfurling at dawn’s early light on Main Street and the last flickering ember floating back down to earth in the darkened skies over Manteca’s Big League Dreams sports complex on Thursday you may have discovered the truth about America.
It’s wasn’t hard to find.
As the sun peaked above the Sierra, a small army of volunteers — young and old, veterans and those who never served, as well as people of various faiths and ethnic groups — placed 2,400 flags along Manteca’s streets.
Less than five hours later, eager and wholesome faces of youth parading down Main Street ranging from baton twirlers to Cub Scouts as well as youth proudly driving farm tractors to JROTC cadets handing out small American flags reflected America.
So did the Sikh group displaying culture traditions as did folkloric dancers in festive dresses twirling as they headed down Main Street.
You could hear America in the neighborly banter of die-hard volunteers as they chatted with hundreds of people as they organized the parade or helped serve up pancakes, eggs, ham, OJ, coffee, and milk during breakfast. They’re the same who make the Pumpkin Fair a success, hide thousands of eggs during the free community Easter egg hunt, and give thousands of dollars to help non-profits that serve youth and those in need.
Your heard it in the voice of singers that helped celebrate the Fourth at Big League Dreams.
America, when all is said and done, can be found not in politicians, celebrities or the super rich. Its heart, soul and backbone are in the construction worker. The secretary. The clerk. The farmer. The truck driver. The school teacher. The soldier. The nurse. The day laborer. The engineer. The farm worker.
Thomas Jefferson may have inspired legions but it took countless others whose hearts beat fast for the same love of liberty and freedom to turn words into deeds.
George Washington may have led through doom and gloom to triumph but it took the faithful commitment of men willing to leave the comfort of their homes and risk it all for the untried idea that common men could rise up against kings and determine their own collective destiny.
Joseph Strauss may have had the vision and the engineering skills to design the Golden Gate Bridge but it took the muscle, sweat, backbone — and even the lives — of laborers to actually create the modern wonder.
John D. Rockefeller may have set the bar for capitalism but it is the countless small business owners who really make the free-market system work.
Martin Luther King Jr. may have delivered the stirring and inspiring words that remind us equality in terms of human rights must be universal or it exists for none but it is the day-to-day actions of neighbors, co-workers, and strangers that determine whether we are indeed different than mere animals.
America is not perfect. But there are 329 million reasons why we celebrated the 243rd anniversary of what still ranks as the most radical moments in the annals of mankind — the signing of the Declaration of Independence — and its lofty concept of putting all men on the same footings as kings that this nation still offers the best hope for oppression and tyranny to fade from the earth.
The truth about America is simple. It works because government for the people and by the people requires people to step up and do their share to make America work.
If not, the freedoms and liberties we enjoy may end up as just as a series of bursts on the timeline of man and fade into oblivion just as the final embers of fireworks did Thursday night.