REVERE BEACH — What is there to celebrate this Fourth of July?
I must confess I’m at a bit of a loss this year. The double-feature horror shows of Supreme Court decisions and Jan. 6 hearings have made it clear that the democracy so many of us venerate this time of year was built on a fragile mutual understanding — a foundational compact one powerful party abandoned years ago.
But nobody wants to read that on a holiday thick with flags and fireworks, right? So, in the interests of sparing you (and me) the sads, I booked it to paradise, and asked all manner of stranger to share something they love about this imperfect union — even now.
On a sparkling Thursday afternoon, Revere Beach was doing what it does best: gathering a giant, joyful crowd of folks from all over Massachusetts, and the planet: Russians, Colombians, Moroccans, and Somalis; shirtless white men in backward-baseball caps, their backs burned red; Brazilians playing volleyball; kids inhaling ice cream; women dressed in chadors and others in thongs; elderly Italian-American men sunning their leathery brown chests in the blazing sun.
Jose Lopez, 33, was sitting on a wall beneath one of the handsome shelters, watching his 8-year-old daughter play in the sand. The Boston resident came to the United States in 2006. So what does he love about this place?
“Freedom,” he said. “I get to do this, enjoy time with my daughter.” Back in the Dominican Republic, he’d be so busy working and trying to make ends meet that he’d never have time. But here, his flooring job pays well enough that his afternoons are free.
“I like the diversity,” said Alexander Smith, 43, an airline worker and freelance photographer who grew up in the South End and Roxbury and now lives in Los Angeles. Smith, who is Black, has no illusions about this country, but still he’s hopeful.
“The past of this country is so negative, but we had a Black president, and now we have a Black Supreme Court justice, and we’re working towards equality,” he said. “It feels like we’re taking a few steps back … but I still feel good.”
Cambridge resident Vicki Meredith, a baby boomer who declined to give her age, struggled at first to come up with something to celebrate.
“I can tell you what I used to like about this country,” she said. “I used to like freedom of speech, but now it all depends on the slant of the listener. At one point in time we respected differences of opinion.”
Meredith said her family has long been involved in the fight for equal rights, including on the front lines in Mississippi and Alabama in the 1960s. She and her family fought for housing and opportunity for themselves and other Black residents of the South End and Roxbury.
“There is still a small segment that respects liberty and civil rights,” she finally allowed. “Hopefully they will multiply.”
Amen to that.
There are few souls more enamored of this country than refugees to whom it has provided safe haven. Dina Suliman and her family had nothing when they fled Sudan in the late 1990s, when she was 16. They were given housing, food, and everything they needed until her parents started working.
“This country was definitely welcoming,” said the medical translator, 35, from Lynn, as her two young daughters sped across the sand with a group of giddy kids. “I love that it’s a melting pot for people from all over the globe.”
Sure, the news lately has been awful, Suliman said, “but you have to stay hopeful. It’s the only alternative.”
There is another one, and that is avoiding the news altogether.
“I just stay in my little bubble,” said Judy Catanesye, walking the beach in a wide-brimmed hat with a friend.
So, what does she love about this place?
“I love that I have the freedom to get up every day and eat what I want, and go wherever I want,” she said. “If someone lives their life the way they should, they don’t go hungry, and they’re happy. Besides, it’s hard to be unhappy at the beach on a day like today.”
There are plenty of people doing everything right who are nonetheless hungry and unhappy, but I’m with her on the beach part.
Especially when it comes to this one. Revere Beach is one of the things that is left to celebrate on this Fourth of July: The first public beach in the country, a gorgeous, beautifully maintained community asset, easily accessible via the nicest branch of our public transit system, is a testament to what we can do when we do it together. The people it draws from all over the region, from all over the world, seem to get along just fine, and are delighted to be there. They’re a snapshot of our rich present, and of this messy country’s future potential.
Here is the America I love, the one this immigrant signed up for. Cue the fireworks.