Independence Day, 2010
Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.
Today is Independence Day. It is, in fact, the two hundred and thirty-fourth Independence Day since our Country was first founded. For those Americans who know their history, it is a day intended to celebrate the thirst for liberty that, many years ago, moved delegates from Britain’s thirteen American Colonies to formally declare those colonies’ newly free and independent from a distant and increasingly unresponsive parliament and monarchy. This was no small thing; the men who debated and ultimately signed the “Declaration of Independence” had — as they knew only too well — all endorsed treason against the British Crown as their political cause. The soaring language used by Thomas Jefferson when he penned the controversial document might lift men’s spirits, but it was no protection against Royal reprisal. And simply by putting pen to paper, each of these delegates knew that he had done more than sign a statement of grievances to be delivered to the English Crown; he had — in both his own eyes and in those of the King — personally and publicly endorsed a formal “writ of rebellion.” Thus, the issuance of the “Declaration of Independence” was also a declaration of war against England; in political terms, it really changed nothing so far as America’s fractured relations with Britain were concerned. In truth, Jefferson’s words were intended to spur American patriotic ardor for the inevitable struggle already underway, at least as much as they were meant to rebuke both the British Crown and Parliament. And, of course, years of suffering and bloody fighting were to follow the issuance of the “Declaration of Independence,” before the former colonies — now called states — would finally succeed in accomplishing their complete and permanent political separation from England.
The document unanimously ratified by the representatives of the thirteen rebelling colonies declaring themselves united independent states that hold certain truths to be self-evident as their justification for rejecting tyranny.
Today, most of the holiday news that will be broadcast will — after recounting the latest chapter in the ongoing tragedy that is the Gulf oil spill — probably discuss the dangers and expense of fireworks and the still moribund American economy’s effect on Fourth of July sales and movie attendance. A few commentators will make a perfunctory effort to draw a brief and uninspiring portrait of the historical origin of the holiday. Some in the media, of course, will also acknowledge the past and current sacrifices of our service personnel in distant, dangerous places, and the role of those troops in maintaining our independence ever since our Nation’s founding. Still, I suspect that these brief celebrations of the nation’s birthday by the print and broadcast media will, for the most part, be delivered with the same general lack of real interest and sincerity that dampens almost every other message put forth by our attractive, but vacuous news readers.
The flag of The Minutemen of Culpeper County, Virginia celebrated the words of Virginian Patrick Henry, "give me liberty or give me death" along with the ubiquitous rattlesnake warning.
Of course, this year could always be different. However, based on past experience, somehow I doubt that — excepting a few specialty cable channels — there will be very many programs that truly revisit the events surrounding the birth of the United States, or celebrate the contributions of patriots like Washington, Madison, Franklin, Adams and Jefferson. On the contrary, I fully expect there to be a barrage of talk on the airwaves from assorted ideologues and historical revisionists who, while solemnly claiming to praise America’s heritage, nonetheless, will still focus mainly on the real and perceived faults of America’s Founders and the Nation that they created. These critics will underscore, as they do at every opportunity, the fact that many of our Country’s first leaders were wealthy men of commerce or of the law; that others were land-owners who owned and exploited slaves. These prominent early Americans, they will continue, were not always perfect or without fault, but, instead, were often ambitious, self-promoting, arrogant and sometimes mean-spirited and even petty. In short, the critics will reiterate what all of us should already know: that the patriots who guided the transformation of thirteen British Colonies into the United States of America were mainly men of substance and personal accomplishment, but that they were also subject to the same human frailties that plague each and every one of us in our daily lives, today. What the revisionists will avoid discussing, on the other hand, will be the extraordinary grit, 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 own and their loved ones’ lives, for the ideal of a new nation free from either a native or a distant tyranny, and with a national compact that guaranteed the continued liberty of its citizenry. As Americans, ours is a fortunate birthright. Today, we are all still recipients of the Founders’ centuries-old gift of personal freedom. We tend to take this gift for granted, but we should not; it was originally purchased and then defended, at great cost by our forebears. For this reason, we, as a people, should never forget either those who first gave us liberty, or those who have defended it since the Country’s founding. As Americans, it is the least we can do.
May we all have a happy and safe Glorious 4th of July and take a moment to acknowledge the many sacrifices that have made the celebration of this holiday possible.