Rethinking the 4th

July 3, 2009

Bruce-USA

It’s fair to say that I am somewhat fascinated with the 4th of July.  The all-day BBQs usually satisfy my carnivorous appetite, no matter how predictable or repetitive I am still a sucker for a sub-par fireworks show, and I become giddy with a genuine patriotic joy when I see those complimentary plastic American flag covering the majority of neighborhood lawns.

There is something quite marvelous and Rockwellian about the entire spectacle. (Note: I am currently sitting at a café and the barista just started to play Bruce Springsteen – Greatest Hits. I can’t tell if Mr. Barista’s selection is ironic or sincere but needless to say, his timely musical choice works pretty darn well with the weekends Americana-inspired ambiance.)

Yet, I would like to point out that this classic mid-summer production has a void; that is, the way most of us relate to its historical purpose. It’s not that the holiday doesn’t have a connection with the past. Indeed, far from it. The day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and our freedom from those big bad tyrannical Brits on the other side of the Atlantic.

I have beef with the fact that most of us don’t seriously acknowledge the historical narrative (booo taxes! booo king! yay freedom!) when celebrating Independence Day. Think about it for just a moment: the birth or our country in America is covered in a-historic, let’s just enjoy the here and the now, clothing.

To a certain extent, it’s like this for most American holidays.: a vague understanding of a historical event or idea constitutes drinking and an extra long weekend. And for the most part, that’s good enough for me.

But there is something that specifically frustrates me about the way we separate our historical knowledge from the 4th of of July BBQs and firework shows. I think this vaguely has something to do with the fact that Independence Day occurs in the summer and kids aren’t in school to learn about the holiday. Or maybe that’s not the reason and I am just latching onto a half-ass theory I concocted in 2002.

Regardless, for the past two years, I have been on a quest to rectify our revisionist historical oversight by taking fifteen minutes on the 4th to read and discuss the Declaration of Independence. Try it yourself. (No excuses, here is a copy). While busting out this bad boy at a BBQ might qualify you as socially abnormal, there is a chance that reciting the line “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a turn on for at least someone.

If you don’t want to do this for me, then take a few minutes to read the DecofInd (yep, we are abbreviating!) to honor former President John Adam (better known as in some circles as the guy that Paul Giamatti played in that HBO mini-series.)  Number Two went as far to propose that Independence Day should warrant a celebration:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Without John Adams we wouldn’t have fireworks or a day off and without his cousin Sam, we would be stuck drinking PBR as the patriotic brew of choice.  And if that’s not good enough reason to sacrifice a few minutes and discuss the Founding Fathers and their collective brilliance, then gosh darn’t, you deserve to live under the crown’s rule.

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One Response to “Rethinking the 4th”

  1. Mike Says:

    Luckily, New Yorkers have a clean copy of the DecofInd penned by TJ himself (well at least until August). You sure made self-evident why we should appreciate it.

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