IF THEY have not done so already, advertising types all over the nation are preparing the copy for their giant Fourth of July sales.
Soon we will be inundated with newspaper inserts and television commercials telling us to rush down to this department store or that appliance store on the Fourth to buy, purportedly on sale, anything from washing machines and television sets to brassieres and denim jeans.
I don't recall that John Adams said anything about that type of observance when he read the Declaration of Independence to the people gathered in Philadelphia in 1776. He talked about pomp and parades, picnics and games.
When I placed my American flag in its holder last Sunday -- it was Flag Day, in case you didn't know -- I looked down my street and saw no flags other than those that represent no country, no thought, just pretty designs like a pineapple, a sailboat, a doll.
So Flag Day is old, forgotten stuff, and the observance of the Fourth of July centers mainly on giant sales having nothing to do with patriotism and everything having to do with making money.
It is an unpatriotic statement when businesses cannot take time away from those cash registers to observe the most significant of U.S. holidays.
Seemingly, half the nation's work force is on the job on the Fourth of July. Most factories are closed; government closes down. But not the supermarkets, department and discount stores and other retail businesses.
And, like fools, most of the people who aren't working go to those stores to do business.
Years ago, businesses shut tight on the Fourth and usually helped sponsor the celebration picnics and fireworks shows for their employees and families. That spirit somehow gave way to the craving for money.
Unfortunately, dollar-greedy corporations and merchants are much like flag burners. They have a constitutional right to be jackasses.
In my own form of protest, I have avoided shopping at any store on July 4. I would hope that all of America would boycott businesses open that day and spend it as it was intended.
The true celebrating of the Fourth takes place in small-town America where nearly everyone joins in on the observance.
In larger cities, it is a different story. Competition is the ruling factor. If one supermarket opens, then the other feels it needs to open.
Employees are caught in the middle, faced with irritating their bosses and perhaps losing their jobs by refusing to work on the holiday. Union workers probably are in a better position since holidays and workdays are negotiated, but too many opt for holiday double time and figuratively trash their flag.
If we're going to be patriotic, or at the very least observant of what our Founding Fathers intended, then Americans ought to proclaim their independence from business-as-usual on Independence Day.
Call in sick
Call the stores that are going to be open and tell them that unless they begin to free their employees to celebrate the Fourth, you are going to tear up your credit card or never patronize them again.
If you're scheduled to work in a nonessential job, call in sick or take the day as a vacation day. If you have to go to an open business, go there as a picketing protester.
American workers should be free to spend the day celebrating this country with their families. And American shoppers can afford to take a day off for the same reason.
Howard Kleinberg is a columnist for Cox Newspapers.
Pub Date: 6/18/98