Ramona's picture

    Independence Day: We do Have Something to Celebrate

    "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 very favorite day of the year, 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 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 a dissolution of the 13 united states of America from England, the mother state.  Eleven years later, in 1787, a constitution, the wording hard-fought and brainstormed to death, became the law of the land.   The signers mulled over the first paragraph, realizing, I'm sure, that it needed some oomph if people were actually going to understand the motives behind it. 

    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 America 

    It all came out of a yearning for independence so strong an entire country 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 parade is about to start and there is no more beautiful flag in the world than the American flag.


    Tomorrow we'll begin again.  Toward a more perfect union.  Toward more than just a day of domestic tranquility.  Toward an independence we, the people, have promised to preserve.


    (Note:  If some of this looks familiar, it's because it's an adaptation of my Independence Day post from 2010.  Be well and be kind on this day that is ours and ours alone.)


    Great read, Ramona! Thanks!

    Yeah, a really nice read!

    Oh and I love that cartoon!

    At some point during the day, many Blacks think about Frederick Douglass' speech posing the the question what does the Fourth of adult mean to Blacks. There tends to be more activity around Juneteenth than around the Fourth as far as celebrations go. Today in the wake of attempts to keep blacks from voting, the a fourth is viewed with mixed feelings. It is a day that reminds us that we need to strive for a better future. All of us realize that we have a lot of work to do. There are forces that wish to suppress the rights of minorities, women and Gays while arguing for more individual freedom for themselves. Reflection and barbecue today. The struggle continues tomorrow. Have a great Fourth of July. It is a great time to be alive.



    Happy 4th, Mona! Not to dispute your message, but your history is off. You write,

    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.

    Please pardon me if I'm misinterpreting, but I read you as suggesting that our Blue state / Red state discord is an exception to 237 of relative harmony, excluding the Civil War of course. Certainly, many people seem to share this misconception.

    In fact, the political harmony of the late 20th century was the exception. Most of American history has been characterized by fierce internal divisions far, far worse than today.

    The oldest split was between North and South. It began well before 1776 and continued from the first days of the Republic to the Civil Rights era. Race was only one part of that division. The 19th century battles over federal tariffs were much more passionate and ferocious than the abortion and gay marriage issues that divide us today. The cultural differences were also much more extreme before the days of mass transit and mass media. In fact, I would argue that the North and South are more alike and get along better today than ever before in American history.

    But there were other divisions too. In the early 20th century, the Progressive movement split western agricultural states from eastern manufacturing states. The conservative easterners thought that the westerners were loony radicals and socialists. The progressive westerners thought that the easterners were corrupt plutocrats. It was as if you reversed the modern political map and stuck the Tea Parties in Manhattan and Occupy Wall Street in Kansas. And man did they hate each other.

    In fact, the modern era is relatively unusual in only two ways:

    1) The split is almost exactly 50-50. In a system with many checks and balances, that makes it extremely difficult for either side to pass any significant legislation.

    2) The parties are unified. In other eras, it was more common for the major parties to include progressive and conservative factions, which increased the possibility of legislative compromises.

    These attributes have rendered our contemporary government particularly ineffective, but I think it's important to recognize that it's not because we as a people are more divided than we were during some mythical golden era of post-Revolutionary harmony. The United States has always been more an ideal than a reality. 

    Hi, Michael, I hope you're having a lovely day.  I sometimes wish I could just wallow in my own hyperbolic ruminations without having to look out for fact-checkers, but I need to remember that this is dagblog and not my own kitchen--or wherever. 

    But I do appreciate the history lesson.

    I think I said "since the days of the Civil War", which sorta leaves out those years pre-1861.  Still, you're right -- there have been some nasty folks causing all kinds of consternation in the past.  I'm not sure I believe those divisions were as destructive to us all as the one we're experiencing here in the 21st century.  There were certain of us that suffered because our government leaders couldn't come to terms with the "We, the People" part of the bargain, but, even considering FDR's battles, most of us were able to look forward to lives that were better than those who came before us.  We won't have that for a long time coming -- if ever -- and I blame it on this house divided.

    But, damn. . .it's the Fourth of July and I'm going back out to celebrate.  heart

    To the contrary, my friend. The divided house has actually enabled progress. Imagine yourself as an antebellum plantation owner. Surely you would have been upset about those fanatical abolitionists stirring up trouble in Kansas. Or put yourself in the shoes of a 19th century railroad baron, seething about those populist demagogues fomenting class conflict in...uh...Kansas again.

    When you complain about division, I think you really mean opposition. After all, if we were all Tea Partiers, the nation would be quite harmonious, but that would not exactly improve the outlook for the nation.

    So I say here's to division. Let's just hope that the right side wins. Happy 4th!

    Actually, I'm hoping the left side wins!

      How is big business anti-American? I don't think the Founders objected to importing goods into the country. And the affluent didn't have less power at the beginning of the Republic; there was a property qualification for voting.

    I meant to tell you earlier how much I enjoyed this essay. It was like a bright spring flower in a dreary winter landscape. 

    Well, as they say, better late than never, I hope.


    Ah, Emma, thanks.  It's still the holiday weekend so you're right on time.  smiley

    Latest Comments