The U.S. celebrated 241 years as a nation this Fourth of July. And how many revelers, sober or not, would have been able to correctly state our nation’s age? On Independence Day, most Americans were more likely to be focused on celebrating their freedom from a day’s work than commemorating the inception of their country. The course of human events uppermost in their minds was not what had happened in their country’s history, but what was scheduled in the course of their human events that day, i.e., their social agenda.
Certainly everyone’s July 4th was at least superficially patriotic. Cue the red, white and blue outfits from the closet. Party decorations bear stars, flags and perhaps even the image of Uncle Sam. Public fireworks displays proceed accompanied by rousing music such as “Stars and Stripes Forever.” And exactly how does that evoke the true meaning of what is supposed to be celebrated. on Independence Day?
On July 4, 1776, Uncle Sam was nowhere to be found. Benjamin Franklin was unlikely to have been wearing red, white and blue. No U.S. flags bearing stars and stripes had yet been produced. So what was so special about this day? A political act. The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence whose famous first line begins, “When in the course of human events….” This Declaration gave a thumb nosing, heave ho to Great Britain. We think we can run things just fine on our side of the pond by ourselves, King George, the Declaration basically informed him. Of course, it took the King a bit of time to get this news since there was no CNN (Continental News Network) in operation back then.
Talk about upending the status quo….those uppity colonists were giving a royal monarch his walking papers. How could mere commoners be trusted to govern themselves? The world had gone mad–or so the British likely thought. Surely this radical political thinking would crash and burn. Or not.
It’s the not that we should be celebrating. Things in the U.S. are still crazy just like they were in 1776. But, hey–the U.S. is still plugging along. And the more things change (such as the century, who can vote, how we communicate) many things remain the same. Congressional actions reverberate around the country and even the world. Foreign relations are still prickly. We may be on better terms with Great Britain, but we aren’t getting along so well with North Korea, Russia (those meddlers!), etc.
And let’s be honest. Methods of celebrations have not changed much either.–parades, fireworks and drinking. The Father of Our Country, good old George Washington, was obviously aware of the significance of July 4, 1776. He felt that the best way to recognize this auspicious occasion in 1778 was to issue double rations of rum to his troops. Cheers!
Yes, the Fourth of July has become a huge midsummer holiday for Americans. Certainly it is a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate our great country and the freedoms it provides us with family gatherings, barbecues and fireworks bursting in the air. But would it hurt to take just a little bit of time on the holiday to reflect on the brashness of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 and the beginning of the American Dream?
I am not suggesting we spend hours reading American history texts on the holiday, but learning about our country’s beginnings could be quite enjoyable. Wouldn’t a rousing round of Declaration Of Independence trivia be fun to combine history and celebration? Try it; you’ll like it!
Declaration Of Independence Trivia:
1. What two future presidents were signatories to the Declaration Of Independence?
2. Who served as president of the Continental Congress?
3. How many men signed the Declaration of Independence?
4. What three unalienable rights are identified in the Declaration’s Preamble?
5. True or False. John Adams and Samuel Adams both signed the Declaration of Independence.