Remembering the Real Significance of Independence Day
Today is Independence Day. For those who know our history, it is a reaffirmation of the spirit that, many years ago, moved the citizens of 13 British colonies, against almost insurmountable odds, to seek and through bloody force of arms, finally gain their freedom from a distant and arrogant monarchy. Today, most of the holiday news that we will see broadcast will discuss the dangers and expense of fireworks, the economy’s effect on Fourth of July sales and movie attendance. A few commentators may make an effort to draw a vague and feeble portrait of the historical origin of the holiday, and some will even acknowledge the past and current sacrifices of our troops in distant, dangerous places, and the role of those troops in maintaining our independence since our Nation’s founding. Somehow I doubt that there will very many programs that celebrate the contributions of Washington or Adams or Jefferson. But I suspect that there will be the usual critics and historical revisionists who, while claiming to champion American ideals, persistently emphasize the real and perceived faults of the original American revolutionaries. These smug critics, safely sheltered in their academic posts, will point out that many of the founders were wealthy men of commerce or of the law; that others were land-owners who owned and exploited slaves. What the revisionists will not discuss is the courage and commitment to personal liberty of our Nation’s Founders, and the fact that hundreds of years ago they risked everything they valued, including their very lives, for the ideal of a new nation free from a local or a distant tyranny, and with a national compact that guaranteed the continued liberty of its citizenry.
The Liberty Bell, Constitution Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Unfortunately, as time goes by, our national holidays are increasingly co-opted by the agendas of factions and their spokespeople who neither honor nor even care about the historical roots of our most important days of national commemoration and celebration. Christmas is now a crass celebration of consumerism and self-indulgence; a bonanza for retail stores and, at the same time, a hated target of both the proponents of “cultural diversity” and of those obsessed with the phony trope of “separation of church and state.” Thanksgiving is now an excuse to castigate the Puritans for their religious intolerance and for their, alleged but false, mistreatment of Native American Peoples. The birthdays of, arguably, our two most important presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, have been merged, for the convenience of those who discount history but who relish their three-day weekends, into “Presidents’ Day”. How is it that the president who, had he wished it, could have had himself declared the king of our new nation, or the tortured leader who, at terrible personal cost, preserved the Union during its darkest days, should be treated with such disrespect. In contemporary America, Presidents’ Day, is little more than an excuse to advertise holiday sales for electronics and appliances. Slowly, but inexorably, new holidays, like Martin Luther King’s birthday, and Earth Day, are supplanting those that emphasized our shared experiences as Americans. In remaking America, we now favor remembrance of division rather than cooperation, and vague globalism rather than country.
The Prayer at Valley Forge
Why then are we surprised that most of our citizenry is almost totally ignorant of our Nation’s proud history? For more than three generations, powerful factions within our society, and even within the political and educational establishments, have worked tirelessly to obliterate our extraordinarily rich heritage and the evidence of American “exceptionalism” from the national consciousness. The arrival of every national holiday seems to give evidence of their continued success. It is a tragedy and a national scandal.
May we all have a happy and safe Fourth of July and take a moment to acknowledge the many sacrifices that have made this holiday possible.