July 4th Balloon Man | Mark Lindsay

Yesterday I was thinking about the 4th of July which is pretty obvious since it was July 4th. Our little hamlet is the host of a parade and art fair every Independence Day. The town dresses up once a year, puts on a show for the day and then goes back to sleep again. This has been going on for as long as I can remember.

Forget the patriotism for a moment. A big reason for the July 4th is silliness. This is not necessarily a criticism. I generally like silliness in small doses. And I sense that most Americans, on the 4th, are sillier than they'd like to admit. Just look at all the flags, balloons, Uncle Sams, and assorted regalia. Our nation has this gaudy underbelly that's just dying to expose itself. So, on each and every 4th of July there are enough brass bands, fireworks, cotton candy and bad hotdogs to give us a hangover for a month. It seems to be some kind of necessary behavior for a country that carries a lot of weight in the world.

There used to be a woman in our town that would dress up as Uncle Sam and walk around the periphery of the parade on stilts. She'd wave and smile and sway to and fro as if she'd just overdosed of Prozac. I admired her for balance and stamina. I admired her for her silliness.

This year, the parade didn't seem quite so happy. I get the sense that Americans aren't feeling quite so silly these days. The past few years have taken their toll. Not as many people smile anymore. The Stilt Lady wasn't at the parade yesterday and if I had stilts I don't think I would feel like wearing them either. There seems to be sadness in the air right now. Even though our nation is good at putting on a brave face, this year's 4th seemed to have lost it's fourthiness.

Things come and go. We all need a good laugh. Or maybe a good cry. I hope the Stilt Lady comes back next year. We need her.