The 4th of July is about as “Americana” as it gets. But to most people, it is either about drinking, setting off fireworks, or worshiping the Founding Fathers. I vehemently disagree.
Like most kids in the United States, I used to like watching fireworks. I used to like setting them off; bottle rockets, roman candles, sparklers and the like. I’m not so jaded now that I can’t appreciate the beauty of the best firework displays, though by and large I think it is an egregious waste of material.
The 4th of July used to be exciting for me. It used to fill me with patriotism. I used to blindly believe in the Founding Fathers as the epitomes of liberty, idealism, freedom, justice, etc. To a lesser extent, I still do. They may have been giant hypocrites, factually speaking. Many of them espoused “Liberty and Justice for all” while holding African and Native American slaves, and while butchering Native peoples, cultures, as well as taking their land. These men may not have lived up to their own ideals themselves, but that doesn’t make the actual ideals less important, or less relevant. I can still respect what they say that they were striving for, even if in reality their actions were self-serving.
So what is it about this day that seemingly everyone forgets? Yes, this is an anniversary for the Declaration of Independence, when groups of British colonists decided to stick a big middle finger in King George’s face. I admire the audacity. But many people don’t even bother remembering the fact that we, as Americans, were sworn enemies of the British for many, many years. In the War of 1812, the British sacked Washington D.C., and burned down the White House. Even as recently as the 1930s, American and British interests clashed to the point where some thought we might go to war with each other again. Of course, the Third Reich had other plans, and any political animosity between the United States and the United Kingdom now seems like a distant memory. I personally have nothing at all against the people of Britain, but I do find it interesting how much of the history between the U.S. and the U.K. is overlooked. Some even go as far as to fly both the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack, as if there is some sort of divine, god-blessed alliance between the two. To those people, I ask, “have you ever read history?”
Perhaps, more importantly, given the current political and social climate in the United States, I find it crucial to recognize a key point of the 4th of July: this nation was born out of DEFIANCE. Defiance of royalty, defiance of authority, and defiance of government intrusion into the lives of citizens. More than two hundred years later, we as Americans have forgotten those lessons. Governments can be corrupted, and men with power will always do whatever they can to get more of it. If there is one lesson we should take away from the Founding Fathers, it is that we should not be afraid to stand up to authority, to question the people who claim to lead us, and should have no fear in calling out an oppressive, bloated, corrupted, overreaching government for what it is.
“…and Justice for all.”