The many prospects of July, from patriotism to rebirth


Independence Day, birth of the nation, the republic, the democracy?

A holiday with fireworks in the firmament and flags waving from poles proclaiming patriotism.

If I were teaching a summer program, I would assign my pupils to define that word “patriotism,” perhaps with a quote from Tennyson: “Breathes there one who never hath said, ‘this is my native land?’ ”

It is a good time to pose this question. What is left of the pride of that lost virtue labeled “patriotism”?

You have to work at articulating your values. How about the lyrics to a song interpreted by Marlene Dietrich: “a soul-intoxicating summer with a thousand Julys”?

And then later in July we have the Ninth of Av, to mourn the loss of the Temple, on the calendar this summer as July 26-7. As I recall, a marriage after that tragic date is perceived as a cheerful promise of redemption. The three-week period of mourning begins this year on the day after the Fourth of July, through the Fifth and beyond until the brink of August.

I am looking forward to a number of July prospects, including a luncheon with Aaron and Shelly Shatkin and with Marshall and Arlene Cohen. I was a guest at their weddings and a friend in their boyhood chapters in our town. I like to remember and review friendships.

I’m a bit less happy about forthcoming medical exams, which I dread for the needles and other intrusions.

What I am most eager for during the weeks of the seventh month is the siren call of the ocean, my swims among the lakes and coastal shorelines of our wee tiny state. Each dip in the sea or pond is a rebirth for me.

A friend of my son claims that I cannot drown and nobody need worry if I jump in all by myself.

“You never speak ill of the waters,” he says, “so they would not bring you harm.”

MIKE FINK ( is a professor emeritus at the Rhode Island School of Design.