And that’s exactly what’s wrong with this national holiday, which celebrates the issuance of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 ... our nation’s birthday. It has become sort of obligatory. We go through the motions, just as we do for so many other national observances.
For many, and perhaps even the majority, there is Christmas without church, Memorial Day without a visit to the cemetery, Flag Day without putting a flag out, Thanksgiving without thanks actually being given, and so forth. And a Fourth of July with fireworks and cookouts but no real patriotic content.
We can write it, you can mouth it, but is there any real meaning and appreciation of a Declaration of Independence? We are free men and women today because of it, and the blood that was shed to make it come true. We have our many freedoms, including the ability to celebrate or not celebrate this holiday or any other, as we see fit.
WE BOW TO NO power. The foreign kind we booted the heck out of this land; the domestic powers we somewhat regularly kick out of office ... assuming something catches our attention sufficiently for us to appear at the polling places.
Oh, the Fourth of July can stir a quickening of the heartbeat, even a tear in the eye in memory of some fallen loved one as a patriotic tune is sung. Is it the remnant of conditioning from childhood on — how we’ve been told we ought to react to the fireworks — or do we mean it?
How many will today reread the Declaration of Independence? Even our most-visible observances and gatherings don’t feature the document itself, or its content. Will one out of 100 read it, one out of 1,000, one out of the 100,000 who dwell hereabouts? It is worth reading, at least once a year. Everybody pretty much knows the opening portion, about truths being self-evident and the equality of all men, but the rest is often skipped over — the list of indictments against the British crown.
INTERESTINGLY enough, while this is obviously a document specific to its time, there are many items in the “history of repeated injuries and usurpations” that make up the bulk of the declaration which seem to have bearing on modern debates, or at least offer renewed cause for reflection.
For example. in light of the ongoing debate about immigration that continues despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, how does one interpret “has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage migrations hither; and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.”
Or how’s about “for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments.” Is that an indictment against King George III or King George the Bush regarding the Patriot Act and King Obama the Magnificent about “Obamacare” even in lights of another Supreme Court decision upholding it?
We, the people, take too much for granted when it comes to holidays, seeing them as time-rooted and something in the past.
Actually, they are mostly about when things began, which only offers us the opportunity to continue them.
CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT the birth of Christ; the larger importance is what we do with that birth. Thanksgiving is about the Pilgrims; the larger importance is in maintaining things to be thankful for. Memorial Day is about honoring past sacrifice; its larger importance is in how hard we strive not to need such sacrifices again. And the Fourth of July is not about getting freedom so much as it is about what we are going to do with that freedom.
Too often we pay our national holidays homage only with lip service when they really demand heart service in order to survive with vitality.
Yes, it’s great that most of us have an extra day off. It’s far greater for everyone to have a country such as this every day of the year.
This editorial, with only slight revisions to reflect current events, appears annually on this page on this date.