Why We Celebrate July 4th

Long may it wave as a symbol of freedom.  Photo in Maine, 2006, by the author

Long may it wave as a symbol of freedom. Photo in Maine, 2006, by the author

We celebrate July 4th with a lot of hoopla.  Flag-waving parades.  Backyard barbecues with beer and laughter.  Fireworks.  Good times.

We celebrate the creation of a new country, a new ideal, in 1776.  It was a country that rejected hereditary aristocracies, that called for equal rights for (most) men, that endeavored to create a new and better order for the ages.

Naturally, in an effort this ambitious, involving so many men with differing ideas and ideals, the end result was flawed.  Native Americans were ruthlessly killed or shunted aside.  Slavery remained the original sin of the young republic, a stain partially erased by the Civil War but one whose legacy still dims the brightness of America’s lamp of liberty.

Today the USA remains decidedly imperfect.  That is why we must continue to strive to form a more perfect union, one which protects the rights of the weak against the depredations of the strong.  In this sense the revolution is never over.

As we reflect on the meaning of July 4th, our day of independence, we should recognize that independence is not a day simply to be celebrated.  Rather, it is a legacy that others have fought and died for, one we must continue to earn — and one we must continue to cherish and protect.

Just as the founders of this country fought against the tyrants of the 18th century, we must be on guard against the tyrants of the 21st century.  They may not be kings named George sending their mercenaries to quarter among and fight against us.  Today’s tyrants–today’s power-seekers and liberty-limiters–may even claim to be super-patriots who are protecting us from harm, even as they work to limit our rights while feasting on the plenty that still defines America.

But we know better.  We know what is best about America.  And on July 4th, we celebrate it.

America’s thirst for freedom — may it never be quenched.  May it always endure.

W.J. Astore

3 thoughts on “Why We Celebrate July 4th

  1. A careful scrutinizing of the backgrounds of the “Founding Fathers” gives away all the secrets hidden in plain sight. This nation was wrested from British control so that the sons of Englishmen could exploit its marvelous natural resources to their OWN greedy benefit. Historian Joseph Ellis wrote a book called HIS EXCELLENCY, GEORGE WASHINGTON. (I admit I haven’t read it, but I did read his fascinating book on Jefferson, AMERICAN SPHINX.) The title refers to G.W.’s great wealth and his being, in essence, an American “royal.” Thus, from Day One, “the system” has been rigged to benefit the few at the expense of the many. “Liberty”? A headline on NY Times website seems to suggest (haven’t read the details yet) the USPS has been instructed to log with whom we are corresponding via snail-mail. Just to “catch” the dinosaurs who eschew electronic communications, I guess. July 4? I haven’t celebrated it since I was a naive child. Now I know better. Much better.

    • Greg: Yes, our past was often inglorious. Our present doesn’t bode well for our future. But I think it’s one-dimensional to focus strictly on all our flaws, just as it’s one-dimensional to focus strictly on all our feats. There are truly good things about America, especially the land of my parents (slowly disappearing, I’m afraid).

      On July 4th we celebrate as a community certain ideals that must — MUST — be preserved. The odds may be long, but the fight is still worth fighting.

      Thanks, as ever, for your comments.

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