Waving the sandspangled banner

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of hot chai tea, of thee I sing.

Adri Mehra

So, how does one celebrate America’s birthday?

A candy-tossed parade, a lakeside picnic, an impromptu backyard ballgame? A solemn commemoration of our nation’s bravest veterans, perhaps?

Nah. I’d rather spend my Fourth of July with a bunch of immigrants. Hairy, rowdy and occasionally lewd ones, at that. And you know what? It’s the most American thing I can think of doing.

You just can’t get more apple-pie than my Afghani grandmother’s morning complaint, which today had something to do with comparing her swollen feet to entire watermelons.

Want stars and stripes? Look no further than a baker’s dozen of samosa-stuffed Pashtun dudes deposited around a big-screen TV showing ’round-the-clock Bollywood comedies.

I haven’t decided whether it’s iconic or just ironic, but there’s something distinctly American about a large family of immigrants getting together to eat, drink and be merry in their own cultural milieu within these borders.

After all, who better to know the stakes of independence than a refugee? Who better to understand the original American colonists’ battle for social, political and religious freedom from Britain’s royal charge than intelligent citizens who had faced the very same conflicts in their own homelands?

On July 3, 1776, founding father John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, that he expected the following day to become synonymous with liberation from oppression – for all citizens.

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival,” Adams decreed.

“It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance Ö to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Either all that, or maybe it’s just a three- or four-day weekend with fireworks and barbecued rib tips (not necessarily mutually exclusive and not always in that order).

In any case, I feel that the ultimate act of patriotism is to celebrate your own kind – your family and friends.

At the end of the day, they’re the ones who have fostered and nourished your independence. And isn’t that what we’re celebrating?

To me, being a real American doesn’t equal the additive value of how many Wal-Mart clearance flags with made-in-China stickers you have stabbing the ether from your front lawn.

It’s about being happy to be here and not covered by a veil, or worse, by shrapnel from a land mine or a bombed-out discotheque.

Certainly this holiday isn’t about the neocons trying to ram an anti-flag-burning bill through Congress in a feeble attempt to stir up partisan support for a miserably failing election year.

I do acknowledge that flag-burning incidents are up a third from last year so far – four reported cases in the United States, as opposed to three in 2005.

Where’s Rambo? These sickos must be eliminated.

But I digress. What I’m trying to cut to is the core of our freedom, which should include the rights to free speech and assembly that Americans invoked when they burned the flag to protest something that was actually illegal – the Vietnam War.

Those were real patriots, exercising their rights, as well as independent thinkers.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear a four-hour musical and a plate full of curry calling.

Mummy! Where are those watermelons?