Why I still celebrate Independence Day

One observation I made this past weekend is how many people tweeted, posted or shared the sentiment that July 4th should not be celebrated. This is fairly common to see at least one or two people crap all over a holiday, but not in as many numbers I saw Saturday. There’s always a person I see ready to dump on Christianity on Easter or Christmas, for example, but it’s usually a one off from someone who had a bad experience with the church or just wants to be the guy screaming anchovies when a group tries to order a pizza (we get it, you’re sooooo cool…good job). I saw it so frequently, I felt I should write about it.

First off, one of the great things in America, is you are free to stick your lip out and not celebrate as much as you want to. You can go online and outside of death threats and the judgement of the people reading, you can trash any and every politician at any level – from the President down to your dogcatcher – and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You can even be wrong, but you can do it. You can protest, write, yell, or boycott just about any authority figure there is. That’s in the 1st Amendent. The very first one in the Bill of Rights.

Secondly, do you still give gifts on Christmas knowing poor children aren’t getting any? Do you still eat on Thanksgiving knowing there are homeless people? Of course you do, but a funny thing happens on these days, people tend to give more, reach out to others when they haven’t previously and are reminded to step back and be grateful for what they have. It’s very sad, but we have the highest economic standard of living on Earth and we still complain. I know I do, so I’m calling myself out also. People who go out drinking four nights a week whip out their $900 phones and trash how unfair life or the “system” is. I have seen people have Go Fund Me for their bills but go on vacation or buy a new video game system. My dad went on a mission trip to Guatemala a few years back and said he helped a family that picked fruit build a house. The father had accidentally drank fertilizer in the middle of the night instead of from the water bucket and went almost immediately to invalid status. An entire family lived off a few bucks a day in a one room house he described as “big enough to pull a car into, but you wouldn’t have been able to open the doors.” He said they were so appreciative, he had to reexamine how he looked at things. We can celebrate our national holiday without blind allegiance to our past or the government, yet step back and realize all humanity is flawed.

Lastly, I see a lot of people profiteering, either in money or status, off pushing agendas. Sadly, on both sides of issues. The news leads with stories that get ratings and the ones that do are the ones that make us angry. Reason is giving way to partisan politics, heightened by an election years, two incredibly flawed parties and a pandemic. Yet for me, whatever the climate of rage is around us, I can stop and realize that this country was the first to articulate equality as foundational principle. Was it equal then or now? No, but to write that off is to ignore the reality of humankind’s flaws and asses the past from a modern lens without adjusting for perspective. Also, watch what history is being touted. I see danger in ignoring the ugly, but there is also a looming threat from rewriting events with an agenda laced pen. Abraham Lincoln, during his Senate campaign, which he lost, but was able to parlay into a presidential run, defended the founding principles in the face of a tense country ready to explode over slavery. By putting the statement that all men were created equal, it became the shining light to achieve from that moment on. It wasn’t a reality under British rule and would not be when America became free, but it set the target that we are shooting for.

A great example is recently a push to replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday has arisen. We are constantly seeking higher ground, but don’t have to burn down the past that set the foundation for such lofty ideals that we still hold them up. Most countries were founded as a result of war, common ethnicity or geographical boundaries. America was not. It was founded on reason and hope. Compare it to its bastard cousin, the French Revolution, which was violent reverted back to authoritarianism as fast as the guillotines dropped. The revolutionaries, out for vengeance consumed themselves in rivers of blood and were brought into a Napoleonic rule to restore authoritarian order. America has had one violent struggle above all others, a Civil War, which corrected the mistake of continuing the slavery that had existed for 157 years when the Declaration was written. They tried to restrict it via the Northwest Ordinance and the slave trade restriction, but it would take 600,000 casualties to eradicate it as an official institution.

While not perfect then or now, America still has people desperately trying to become citizens. Our institutions are flawed, but ultimately subject to the people, not the other way around. The holiday of July 4th was the first step in rejecting rule without representation. We have written into the foundations of our government the protections of speech, religion, assembly and the separations of power and we are seeking improvement and justice constantly, even if we are not there yet. That’s why I celebrate Independence Day.