Happy Independence Day Americans!
Today marks the official adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress, way back in 1776. It seems strange to have a national holiday marking a parliamentary procedure. The physical document that is under glass and argon at the national archive wasn’t actually signed until August second.
The sentiment was set in motion two days earlier, when our founding fathers voted to legally declare independence from Great Britain on July second (which also happens to be the day that L.B.J. signed the civil rights act in 1964). John Adams himself said:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
Frankly the official day we decide to commemorate our declaration is irrelevant to the spirit of the holiday. I love the fourth of July, because it is a celebrates my favorite American trait: Independence.
I’ve posted about my patriotism before. I love America for so many reasons. It is easy to love the natural beauty of our country, from our shining seas, to our purple mountains’ majesties. America has scenery to spare.
However, America is so much more that just a large stretch of land between the Atlantic and Pacific, as lovely as that land may be. America is great because it’s full of Americans.
Americans come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. We pray to different deities, we laugh at different jokes, we have different preferences, different opinions, different ideas, different convictions.
Our country is founded on the principles of representative democracy. We certainly don’t have to agree with each other on everything.
However, we do all have to agree to get along, somehow. It’s laid out as plain as day in the opening lines to our country’s founding document. Our country was created because a bunch of pissed-off puritans got sick of being pushed around by their patriarchal king. The Declaration of Independence, along with its laundry list of gripes against King George, establishes this great nation as a place where each citizen should be free to pursue their own American Dream.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
OK. I recognize that the founding fathers weren’t perfect. They certainly believed that some men were created far more equal than others. Thomas Jefferson owned over 200 slaves in 1776, and accused Great Britain of “inciting the negroes to rise against their masters.”
We’re not perfect today, in our forward thinking, modern society. It is REMARKABLE that we live in a country where gay marriage is fully legal in 19 states (with 12 more on the way, hopefully). It is shameful and atrocious that we live in a country where C.E.O.s are paid, on average, 295 times their workers’ salaries. It is inspiring to watch old barriers fall: Michelle Howard just became the first African-American female four-star Admiral in U.S. Navy history. It is endlessly frustrating to see that highly qualified female financial specialists, doctors, and lawyers receive only 70% of the wages that their male counterparts recoup.
Our country may have its flaws. However, the best thing about our wacky little representative democracy is that when things aren’t perfect we have the right, no….the responsibility to change them. The instructions are laid out as plain as day in our own declaration of independence.
“…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
In other words: if your government is getting in the way of your happiness, don’t take offense, take ACTION.
Of course, the founding fathers recognized that we can’t go throwing revolutions left and right at the drop of a tri-cornered hat.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes
It might behoove some of our legislators to give the Declaration of Independence another quick once-over before they decide to shut the government down…again.
John Boehner’s quixotic legal crusade probably falls under the auspices of “light and transient causes,” as well.
I digress, the point of this post is not to promote divisiveness and disunity, no matter how much disdain I feel for certain politicians. The point of this post is to CELEBRATE the fact that our founding fathers left us strict instructions: when the oligarchs obstruct our freedom, we have an obligation to get them OUT.
“when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
I am patriotic, not nationalistic. I love my country enough to start righteously raging when we screw up. I believe in America, because we, as a country, have accomplished AMAZING things.
We, as a country, have also made some AMAZINGLY unfortunate choices throughout our history.
The best thing about America is that we, as citizens, are allowed and encouraged to take action if our elected leaders start to lead us in a direction we don’t agree with. We, as a country, are constantly evolving. We’re not perfect, but we’re working towards becoming a more perfect union every single day. John Quincy Adams, in his famous Fourth of July speech said:
“[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace.”
Let’s march our minds together towards becoming a country we are all proud to live in. Let’s celebrate our independence, and delight in our diversity. Let’s recognize the things about our country that we want to change. Let’s recognize that we don’t all share the same ideals, but recognize that we all have the right to our own ideas and the responsibility to hear one another out. Let’s cherish what we have in common: we are all Americans. We have a big, weird, and wonderful country. For better or for worse, we all have to figure out a way to live together.
Happy July 4th everybody! Go drink some beer and blow some stuff up!
How are YOU spending your Independence day?