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Celebrate safely on 4th of July

When it comes to Fourth of July traditions, Maui has a boatload. From parades and rodeos to firework displays and family beach barbecues, we celebrate this particular holiday like no other.

How many of us have gotten up early to make sure we could find a parking place and still have time to pick up pastries at Komoda Store & Bakery before the Makawao Paniolo Parade trotted up Baldwin Avenue? How many cowboys and cowgirls have ridden their mounts in the parade and then had to hustle up to Oskie Rice Arena to compete in the Fourth of July rodeo?

The multicultural spin Maui puts on Independence Day has made it a true celebration of the promise of America. Folks of all different ethnicities, colors, sexual orientations and creeds happily mix, their smiles and pride demonstrating the ideals that all men and women are created equal, and all have the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

With the holiday falling on a Saturday this year, the stars and stripes were aligned for packed venues across the island. Were aligned, that is, until the global coronavirus pandemic caused just about everything to be canceled. As much as events like Lahaina Town’s fireworks show will be missed, the last thing any of us need right now is to be packed tightly together in crowds for extended periods of time.

Can we accept this as an opportunity? A one-time chance to dial down the frenetic weekend and celebrate in quieter, more intimate ways? We certainly hope physical distancing and contact tracing don’t become new Fourth of July traditions, but for this year at least, we’ll all be better served by playing it safe. Maui has worked too hard, sacrificed too much, to risk it all by staging parties that could potentially turn out to be what the experts are calling “super-spreaders.”

COVID-19 fatigue is real. It is natural to yearn for the old days when hugs, handshakes and big social gatherings were the way Maui rolled. Next weekend there will be temptations to set common sense and best practices aside. Humans are social animals and this quarantine thing has just seemed to drag forever.

Humans are also intelligent enough to recognize danger and to alter behavior to protect themselves and the ones they love. Though we have flattened the curve admirably on Maui, we are far from out of the woods.

Let’s be smart about how we celebrate. By keeping gatherings small and family-oriented, we can lessen the chance of becoming infected or infecting others. The coronavirus is still out there in the world, still waiting to exploit a gap in our armor. For some, contracting the disease will be no big deal. For our kupuna and those with underlying health issues, as well as a percentage of healthy young people, it could be a death sentence.

Making sacrifices for the good of the nation, as well as for our family, friends and neighbors, is a fundamental part of the American Way. How many times have Americans pulled together to defeat a common foe?

Taking one Fourth of July off won’t kill us. In fact, it may just save us.

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