|The Liberty Flag Pole at the California Powder Works
July 4th is our nation's "historical" holiday. It is one of my favorite holidays, too. Here is something I wrote back in 1983, to commemorate July 4th. These thoughts still seem timely, today:
Yesterday, the Fourth of July, was truly a day of celebration in Santa Cruz County. Or perhaps I should say a day of remembrance and celebration. Celebration and remembrance do go together. We can truly celebrate the present only when we recall the past, when we bring to mind and remember our origins, our traditions, and our history.
William Faulkner said, "the past is never dead‑‑it is not even past." To prepare ourselves in faith and hope for the future, we must find joy in and reconciliation to the present; and we can truly undertake such celebration of the present only when we couple this celebration with the remembrance and incorporation of what came before. This is the inevitable principle of every holiday. A holiday is a day set aside to remember the past; to celebrate the present; and to prepare for the future.
Quite by chance, I had an opportunity to prepare myself for the celebrations of the Fourth of July by reading a book about Santa Cruz County published in 1896. The book is entitled, "Beautiful Santa Cruz County, California, A Faithful Reproduction in Print and Photography of its Climate, Capabilities, and Beauties." The Prologue of the book says this:
"God was very gracious when He made this beautiful strip of shore and valley...It is a pleasant and fruitful land...
"The publisher of this book does not deal in hyperbole. He believes in doing business on straightforward lines. And this book is a business proposition from cover to cover. It is meant to attract the attention of people in other parts of the country to the resources of this County of Santa Cruz...
"The man who invests in Santa Cruz soil can rest certain that he will reap richer returns than did the hardy generation which upturned the soil in search of gold. On the gentle slopes of the mountains flourish the vineyard and the orchard; in the pleasant valleys, grain and grass and fruit yield abundantly; in the rich valley of the Pajaro the rancher coins the sugar beet into hard dollars...the splendid quarries of lime and petroleum rock bring livelihood to hundreds; and over all this scene of happiness and orderly, industrial content broods the bright sunshine, and softly blow the delicious breezes of the fairest, loveliest spot that ever slept and waked in the smile of God. This County is an 'Eden of the West.'"
The book I was reading, an original edition actually published in 1896, conveyed in beautiful descriptive language, and in photographs, what Santa Cruz County was like almost a hundred years ago. In many ways, while the book is about Santa Cruz County specifically, it also represents the entire American experience.
As we remember our history, don't we indeed see an "Eden," a beautiful, originally untouched land, with all its abundant natural resources, opened to exploration and development as a "business proposition." Isn't much of our history the story of how Americans have "coined hard dollars" out of the resources of the American soil, and water, and air?
In America, and in Santa Cruz County, we have much to celebrate. Remembering our past helps us understand the present‑‑and helps us prepare for the future, as well. As we do prepare for the future, a future which is ours to make, I hope we will think how we can preserve what is left of the "Eden of the West" that was Santa Cruz County a hundred years ago.
Today we know‑‑what people a hundred years ago didn't‑‑that treating our natural resources strictly as a "business proposition," and maximizing business, and jobs, and investment without regard to the preservation and protection of these resources, will lead us to "Paradise Lost."
On the Fourth of July, as we celebrate our abundant present, and remember our past, let us be careful for the future of this beautiful place.