I recently saw an article titled something along the lines of why the 4th of July should not be celebrated. Obviously, the title intrigued me so I read it. The author distinguished how with all but one holiday, we say the name of the holiday we are celebrating (i.e. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day), not the date. He pointed out though how Americans have become lax in recognizing what we are truly celebrating by referring to this most special holiday by its date only, the 4th of July. Rather, it should be called by its proper name, Independence Day, as a reminder of what we are celebrating. He made an excellent point which caused me much thought and consideration.
When Memorial Day or Veterans Day comes each year, I always see posts and articles explaining the differences between the two holidays, as well as reminding people what each holiday is actually about. I see the most reminders with Memorial Day that it is not just about picnics and barbecues, but about recognizing the lives sacrificed for our nation. In some ways, I think the same thing has happened with our most patriotic of all holidays, Independence Day.
We use the phrases 4th of July and Independence Day interchangeable and everyone knows we are referring to the same monumental event, our declaration of independence from Great Britain. Yet even when we use the proper title of Independence Day, I fear just as with Memorial Day, we have forgotten the real meaning of what Independence Day is all about. Sure we know it's a rememberence of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and of course we follow John Adams' admonishment to celebrate it with fireworks and festivities. But how many individuals take the time to read the historic document sharing the same title or ponder the possible peril these men we now call our Founding Fathers put themselves in through their actions.
240 years ago, when 56 men penned their name on a piece of parchment, they were in reality signed their possible death warrant for treason. These men were willing to stand up against the greatest, strongest, most powerful nation on earth at that time. They were principled, moral men who understood the great injustices being committed by a tyrannical government. They didn't just roll over to let someone fight the battle another day, they didn't just be silent because it would have been politically incorrect to speak up, they didn't just comply with the king's edicts because it would have caused too much discontent among one another to do otherwise. No, they were willing to take a stand, knowing full well the reprercussions their actions would and could have, both for good and bad. We, with a small, raggle taggle of a army, stood up against the most powerful nation and fought for what we knew was right. We proclaimed for all the world and succeeding generations to hear that there are certain unalienable rights given to man by his Creator, that government derives its power from the people, and when a government seeks to deprive these people of their God-given rights, it is the right of the people to alter the government. These words penned that hot July, 240 years ago, are just as applicable today as they were then.
I hear people talk about how discouraged the way our country and society is going; about the absence of courageous, God-fearing leaders; and the desire to see how our country as it once was. Yet, a short engagement of conversation will often reveal a lack of understanding events surrounding the founding of our nation, a lack of knowledge of our founding documents, and/or a lack of knowing what our Founding Fathers' beliefs and accomplishments. To be able to constitute change, there must be a comprehension of the past.
We need to remember the true meaning of Independence Day, what those men so long ago were fighting for and standing up against, the sacrifices they were willing to suffer so that they and their families could live in a nation that recognized God-given, inalienable rights. We still live in the greatest nation on earth. When asked what type of government we have, John Adams replied, "A republic if you can keep it." It is not being kept very well currently, yet remembering what Independence Day truly is about will cause the republic to live another day.
Long may Old Glory wave while Lady Liberty stands watch. Happy Independence Day!