You wouldn’t know from the young, vibrant faces of a new generation of Chinese Americans that this past weekend they were actually celebrating 4711 years of Chinese cultural history. As the Year of the Horse dawned on us all, a small but proud Chinese American community in the Penn Quarters district of Washington, DC took to the streets to celebrate the cultural traditions that the elders surely experienced back in the old country many years ago. In spite of the fact that DC’s Chinatown is a mere shadow of what it once was (the 2010 DC census shows 24.84% of the local Asian population as ethnic Chinese), year-after-year the dwindling community goes through great efforts to keep this colorful event alive. With the relentless encroachment of the business community in the area, it is hard to say what the future holds for these types of events, specially as the ranks of the older generation continue to dwindle and a new generation looks to the suburbs to plant their roots. Even local newspapers have a tendency to point you in the direction of the Virginia suburbs and Maryland if authentic Chinese food is what you are after. That’s a pity, but perhaps somewhat typical of the realities being faced by similar communities around the country. Nevertheless, I am convinced that notwithstanding this reality, as long as we keep supporting events like these in the various ethnic communities around the country, something very precious will be preserved for future generations. And that, my friend, would be a good thing.
Every year I tell myself that I have seen enough 4th of July celebrations to last a lifetime, but every year I keep returning as if in a pilgrimage to enjoy just one more. I can’t help it. Sure, it would be a lot more comfortable to stay home and watch these celebrations on TV, but no matter how much I sometimes get tempted to do just that, I just can’t seem to fathom being idle on a day like this. Too much happening out there. Marching bands, dancing groups of all kinds, ceremonial guards, and even pimped automobiles. It’s all out there amongst the thousands of people who show up in Washington, DC to celebrate our Nation’s independence. Frankly, our Nation’s capital is one of the best places to be at during this long weekend, if anything to actually witness locals acknowledging other human beings. That’s right, even the most hardened local bureaucrats seem to show a softer, human side during this time of the year. But more than that, if you drop by you’ll be amongst some of the proudest Americans you’ll encounter anywhere. The kind of American President Ronald Reagan had in mind when he uttered some of his most famous lines: “Our country is a special place, because we Americans have always been sustained, through good times and bad, by a noble vision — a vision not only of what the world around us is today, but what we as a free people can make it be tomorrow.” Well said, Mr. President.