When you think of the 4th of July, what comes to mind? Firecrackers? Beaches? Barbecues?

Here's a corny word we sophisticated New Yorkers shy away from: Freedom.

We hear so much misuse of the term from phony patriots that it sometimes turns us off. But don't let charlatans steal the meaning of July Fourth from us.

Freedom! Say it loud. How are you celebrating it this weekend? Maybe you're going to Nathan's Famous in Coney Island to watch Joey Chestnut go for his eighth straight win and try to smash his hot dog-eating contest record of 69 dogs.

Or maybe you're heading out to the ballpark. I don't know if you're a Yankees or Mets fan, but one thing I do know -- you'll likely be cheering your lungs out for an Asian or Hispanic immigrant. The Great American Pastime is now dominated by foreign-born players, and baseball is all the better for it.

Because in New York, we don't put down immigrants, or parading gays, or any version of "the other." We cheer them. We ride the subways with them. We are related to them. We are them. America has always taken pride in being the great melting pot, and we are proud that our beloved city is the resulting, tasty stew.

And not to be a wet blanket, but why not take just a moment during your picnic or barbecue and think about freedom and the threat to it. The freedom to practice your religion in peace, or not at all. The freedom (in New York and a mushrooming number of other states) to marry your girlfriend or boyfriend, no matter what your sexual orientation. The freedom to have children, or not; and to choose when, if and how. And the freedom to tell those who would have the government withhold those rights away how truly un-American they are and to back off.

So whether you're at the beach, watching the Macy's fireworks display on the East River or just relaxing at home, take a moment to think about what this holiday really means, and the dream of freedom our visionary Founding Fathers fought for. Let's keep fighting that good fight. Because despite what you might hear to the contrary, this land is very much your land.

So Happy Fourth!

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.