"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men." ~ Samuel Adams
Somewhere along the way we stopped calling our most popular summer holiday "Independence Day" and went simply with "The Fourth of July". We love our Red, White and Blue, but this is the day we pull out all the stops. Flags fly everywhere, the stars and stripes adorning everything from porches to paper plates to Uncle Sam hats to the holiday advertising pages of every newspaper. Flags dress floats and bicycles and baby carriages in every parade in every little town in America.
We love this day--the day to remember our liberty, our exceptionalism, our prosperity. Those were the days, weren't they?
So what happened?
Not to be a downer on our favorite summer day, but I can't shake the feeling that "independence" is one of those words we're starting to look back on with nostalgia. Does anyone even care that we're not that independent anymore?
Our dependence on foreign oil and on anti-American big business and on the production and importation of goods from dubious nations across the globe is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they declared us an independent country and gave us our working papers.
It started on July 4, 1776 when 56 men signed a paper declaring the independence of the thirteen united states of America from Great Britain, the mother country. ("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.")
Eleven years later, in 1787, a constitution, the wording hard-fought and brainstormed to death, became the law of the land. The Preamble read like this: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
They didn't start off with, "We, the wealthy landowners, in order to keep our fiefdoms going. . .", or "We, the 39 undersigned, in order to preserve our station and ensure a healthy profit margin. . . ".
No, they began it like this:
WE, the people. . .of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of AmericaIt came out of a yearning for independence so strong an entire nation was created, and in the course of a couple of centuries we became a model for democracy throughout the world--a force to be reckoned with. You couldn't find a prouder nation anywhere. We were going places.
That was then.
Today, we're in turmoil. It's as if the promises made, the lessons learned, the reasons to form a more perfect union are long gone and long forgotten. We are as divided as we've ever been since the days of our Civil War, 150 years ago. We cannot, it seems, find common ground. We see our America through different eyes, with different fears and different goals. We don't like what we see, but from entirely different angles and for entirely different reasons. We try to interpret what our Founding Fathers had in mind for us, but we come at it with our own biases, our own prejudices, trying to mold our purposely vague constitution to fit our own wants and needs.
But on this one day we come together, and it's our love of this beautiful, challenging, imperfect country that brings us to detente. It's a day when, no matter what's going on outside, the sun is warm, the breeze is balmy, and the shade of the old oak tree brings a delicious coolness. A lemonade day. A day for feeling good. The parades are about to start and there is no more beautiful flag in the world than the American flag.
Come Tuesday we'll begin again. Toward a more perfect union. Toward domestic tranquility. Toward the society we, the people, have promised to promote and preserve.
Until then, be well and be kind on this day that is ours and ours alone.
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