- Published: 05 July 2009 05 July 2009
Since this is a day when everyone’s supposed to be doing something else than work, I’ll keep this short. My beef is that, with all the barbecues, parades, rodeos, baseball games and fireworks displays, people are going out and having a good time on the Fourth of July ... and that’s not the holiday.
Today is Independence Day. And there’s a huge difference between a mark on the calendar and a day of significant meaning not only in this country, but worldwide.
What John Adams noted in a letter to his wife Abigail as the “Deliverance Day” – which, by the way, he thought would be July 2, when colonial representatives approved the Declaration of Independence – is a landmark event in the history of civilization. The concept of citizen and republic became real, as a group of somewhat genteel and landed colonists announced that, henceforth, the people would govern themselves.
They didn’t get it right the first time (the Declaration), the second (the Articles of Confederation) or, in a way, the third (the U.S. Constitution). We ended up fighting an internal bloody battle with the Civil War, and went through later years of strife in guaranteeing civil rights for all.
We’re still working on refining our democracy; we’ve also stepped off our shores to fight for its survival, and the rights of others to govern themselves. They’ve followed us and, with all hope, learned from our mistakes.
Unfortunately, we’ve tended to mask this sentiment, morphing Independence Day into a rather benign idea of the Fourth of July with some red, white and blue framing a day off for picnics. Some of this stems from an idea that the strong national sentiment is more jingoism and somehow denotes a blind ignorance wrapped in the flag; perhaps we need to downplay this into a nicer, gentler holiday.
This is a slander on the whole idea of Independence Day. Yes, things aren’t perfect, but the celebration isn’t one of being smug and boastful; it’s a pride in freedom that started here and carried throughout the world.
Independence Day is a celebration of freedom, not only for the United States but for others seeking the same idea of self-government. It’s a day to take stock and be proud of our accomplishments, and also reminds us that the job always remains unfinished.
-- Emerson Schwartzkopf