(Blogger Note: I write this fully aware half of my views come from beyond the United States’ borders. Please, bear with me.)
Bar-B-Q, Fireworks, Pool Parties, AND The Fourth of July.
Every school child knows July 4th is Independence Day. Recent commercialization has contracted it to just ‘The Fourth”. (I think that’s because I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E is too hard to spell and doesn’t fit on a t-shirt.) Nevertheless, everyone, in America at least, knows the United States of America got its independence on July 4, 1776…
The flaw in that story is that story is, the Colonies in the New World did not earn their freedom until September 3, 1783, with the Treaty of Paris. I don’t know it is faith or arrogance (maybe both), but it seems very ‘American’ to celebrate the day we told-off our oppressor instead of the day we could call ourselves a free nation.
The Signing didn’t happen in a grand ceremony. The image from our cultural memory ‘The Signing of the Declaration of Independence’ never actually happened. The document was approved by Congress on July 4th, then copies were sent out. It took six months to collect all the signatures. The Founding Fathers were very brave when they put their names to the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps, even braver because each had to sign on his own and not in a room of his peers pressuring him to sign. Signing didn’t just mean they were simply in favor of an independent nation. It wasn’t an opinion poll. Signing meant they were committing treason. Signing meant if the Revolutionists lost the war; their property would be seized, their families imprisoned, and they would be executed. Also, it shouldn’t be overlooked that it took over SEVEN years for the Colonies to accomplish their goal. That seems almost impossible to comprehend in our age where dial-up internet is too slow to be tolerated.
A nation’s myths are very powerful. They are compact, easily understood stories that sacrifice cumbersome facts in favor of the ideal. They transcend generations and are part of our oral history. However, the true hardships our Founders endured should not be compromised. Our nation’s origin, or that of any country formed by revolution, is gritty and complex. No child’s storybook understanding can compare to the reality of the birth of a nation.
This Fourth, don’t complain about the holiday falling in the middle of the week. Don’t be disappointed about cancelled fireworks displays due to drought. Celebrate the principal of the day. They drafted a template for human rights, that even though it couldn’t be fully realized for generations, was unprecedented. They went against their born loyalty, their inherent honor; even their neighbors. It is the day a few crazy bold men defied an empire.
Remember September 3, 1783 and have a Happy 4th of July!
- musings on the American Declaration of Independence (vulpeslibris.wordpress.com)