Tonight millions of Americans made their way to the nearest body of water to watch dazzling pyrotechnic displays in celebration of our independence. For many New Yorkers this means convening on the Hudson River. For others it means the Long Island Sound. For me... I find myself out of my normal habitat and instead dipping my toes in the Atlantic Ocean at the Jersey Shore.
But I sat smiling and enjoying the fireworks, I felt a little sadness too. I felt sad that the thousands of people at the beach would mean hundreds of pounds of litter the next morning. I felt sadness as I watched a child let go of a balloon and it sailed over the ocean. I wondered what marine life would wind up trying to eat the later deflated balloon. I coughed a little over the cigarette smoke, tripped over an empty bottle of vodka, and thought guiltily of how me and my two friends all drove separately to our beach house, although we all live close together and could have carpooled.
Freedom is not the same thing as license. With freedom comes responsibility. I question how responsibly I'm exercising my freedom to drive, consume goods, and spend my vacation. I question how we exercise our freedom to celebrate.
I was happy to spend my July 4th in this way with friends, but maybe one day I'll find a way to celebrate without the crowds, the driving, and the packaged food and bottled drinks. Although I care about the environment, there is a lot of room for improvement in how I live up to my own values.