The 4th of July
the Fourth of July.
Usually a chance for Americans to gorge themselves and look at fireworks.
I have had the privilege in my life to have spent 10 of my 39 4ths outside the USA and this has made me appreciate and also reflect on a holiday that has its ironies.
When I was a child my family was often in Italy for the summer. Before I hear the "elitist" names my Mom and my whole family are from a little town in the Alps called Vestone and we would go there to see family in much the same way people go 'home' here to see family.
My grandfather Rinaldo Vanzo, was a Moleta, a grinder and he immigrated from the Val Rendena when he was 16 and worked in New York as a Grinder sharpening knives like many others of his Trentino brethern. He started in Brooklyn and when he died in 1980 he had built a business along with other Molete and made America a reality for my family he is buried today in a grave overlooking his beloved Manhattan.
The story of the Val Rendena grinders is a great American one and in each city in the USA there is a family or two from these little towns who built fortunes from sharpening knives. Many of these grinders (molete) returned to Pinzolo and Madonna di Campiglio and opened hotels and developed the tourism industry they built a monument to their forebearers.
So on the 4th of July these grinders would get together in Pinzolo and have the 4th of July together and it is one of my earliest memories of the 4th none of the fireworks or stupid bbq but polenta and grinders and people who went to America to make a fortune and who did so with their backs. These grinders all from this little valley and all speaking with different American accents, New York, Chicago, Boston, Florida and Atlanta all Americans and all Trentini and all real human beings 100% alive.
For me that is America that Rinaldo Vanzo, my name sake (As i am really Rinaldo Bianchi) could make that life for himself inspite of real bigotry and real hardship.
Later in life I was in South America and again I was able to experience our Independence Day from another angle. In Bolivia and Brazil the day is a winter day like any other except when I would see another American- then with a knowing look we would smile and think of baseball games and stupid barbecues and how naive we all are to believe in words that are so florid and so unrealized in many places.
When I worked in the jail in Cochabamba I once substituted "We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for the daily Bible readings- the residents looked perplexed and then one said "impossible" this is not true- when I told them who wrote them a group member said
" of course only an American could have written this because their flag flies on the moon"