Celebrate independence

There’s no doubt that politics is getting stranger and stranger.

We’re not even at the end of June and the races are really starting to heat up. Not for the 2019 elections, mind you — the campaigns of those who would run for president in 2020 are well under way.

We got a good dose of that reality on Wednesday and Thursday when 20 of the 24 announced candidates for the Democratic nomination descended on Miami to participate in the first of what the Democratic National Committee said will be 12 debates. There are so many people who are lining up for the chance to face Donald Trump next year that it was an event that needed to be spread across two nights.

Trump for his part, actually began his re-election campaign shortly after taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017, with the official announcement coming a couple of weeks ago during a rally in Orlando, Fla.

For a little perspective, consider that the campaigns of those who are running in the local races that will appear on this November’s ballot have barely started, and things are not likely to really heat up until the Jefferson County Fair rolls around.

Scheduled for Aug. 13-18 this year, the fair traditionally has marked the unofficial start of the election season, which will conclude when the votes are tallied the night of Nov. 5.

And yes, there’s more than one year to go before the Democratic National Convention is held July 13-16, 2020, in Milwaukee, and the Republican National Convention is held Aug. 24-27, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.

Add it all up and it’s easy to predict that the heated political rhetoric that’s constantly coming from all sides will get ratcheted up again and again during the 16 months or so that stand between us and Nov. 3, 2020, when the next presidential election will be decided.

Before we reach that point, though, let’s at least say we’re willing to step away, if even for a few moments, from the ever deepening political divides that seem to dominate our country today, especially this week, as we prepare to celebrate Independence Day.

Remember, it’s one of those rare holidays that is meant to be celebrated by everyone. Americans of all faiths — even those who practice no faith — celebrate on the Fourth of July.

Republicans and Democrats, independents and progressives, liberals and conservatives — everyone can take part in the festivities.

Thursday is a day to be thankful for the freedoms we continue to enjoy, a day that this year will mark our country’s 243rd birthday and a day when all Americans can pause and remember that the things that bind us together as a nation are still stronger than the things that would tear us apart.

Many will mark the day relaxing with family and friends, enjoying a cookout and a cold beverage before taking in one of the region’s fireworks displays.

Steubenville’s fireworks display will have a new home this year — the Berkman Amphitheater.

The downtown location should make it more convenient to attend Thursday’s event, with parking and viewing areas more easily accessible than at the former site, Belleview Park.

Weirton, meanwhile, will celebrate our independence Friday night following the annual appearance of the Wheeling Symphony at the Weirton Event Center.

And, the skies above Toronto will be lit up Saturday night during that city’s annual extravaganza at Clarke Hinkle Stadium.

Communities in all parts of the Tri-State Area will celebrate with their own displays as well, making it easy for everyone, no matter where you live, to take in a fireworks display or two.

The Fourth of July also presents an opportunity to remind ourselves that despite what you might hear or read, our country remains the most free on Earth — we’re free to speak our minds; worship when, where and how we want to; and even openly question our government and our elected officials.

There will be plenty of time to argue politics and philosophies in the coming weeks and months, but for now, at least, take a step back and remember that we truly are fortunate to be living in the United States of America.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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