Independence Day: What are we Celebrating?

It’s hard to imagine the US without Independence Day.

But many people in this country, conscious of it or not, would love nothing more than to remove this historically sacred holiday from our social and cultural norms.

Deleting it of course is far from possible.  It’s more likely they’d have to revision the purpose of the holiday, as a way to continue their agenda of painting the US as the bad guys, the world over.

While many of our heroes, and triumphs have been mired in relabeling, redefinition, (I’ll say it again, revision), one of the few things we actively connect  to from our roots in this nation to our modern era is Independence Day.  It is the day our forefathers finalized the declaration that would sound to the world that a new life, in a new world, had been born, no longer tied to the burdens of European Socialism of the era, July 4th 1776.

The most common activity tied to this monumental day is fireworks.  The idea of fireworks as a method of celebration originates from a letter that John Adams wrote his, Abigail, where he recounted a dream he had where the day was honored by sport, firearms, fireworks, and many other far-gone concepts that equated into community celebration of the highest intensity.

One could assume that John Adams was not acutely aware of the barriers that people put between themselves and social activity, but that is more unlikely, if you were to read more deeply into Mr. Adams’ entire thought catalog in his writings.

Regardless, the question presented is how is the Fourth being dismantled, if at all?

The idea of independence is a strong, vibrant concept.  It burns brightly in most people’s mind when thinking of people who draw a line in the proverbial sand, and refuse to give in anymore.  Whether we are discussing the formation of the US, Mahatma Gandhi  and the fight for independence that he organized against British rule in India, or the disturbing path of people and cultures in the former Yugoslavia, that despite the atrocities visited upon them, they continued on their path and formed their own life, identity, and country.  Of course, each of the three examples have starkly different stories of violence, resistance, hope, loss, and grief, but overall, when people recount the fight for independence, and think of the idea of independence, it is a strong idea, imagined or realized.

It seems strange that we would call it the Fourth of July, instead of what it is, which is Independence Day.  Why the Fourth of July?  Well, it just so happens that the day in question is the 4th day of the month of July.  So it makes perfect sense.  But perhaps somewhere along the way, someone thought saying Independence Day was too controversial.  What is clear is that many newspapers of the time slowly removed the term “Independence Day” or “Independent Day,” as some called it.  But in much of the media, by and large, journalists called it “The Fourth of July.”  And even still, when Congress created the first federal holidays, they named New Year’s Day, and Christmas, but left the “Fourth of July,” as well, just that.  A deeper look at the history of newspapers shows that this was not the only word game played by journalists, and in this case the effort was blatant, but the reason for it goes unanswered.

Getting back to Adams, in his letter to his wife, never was their a mention of marrying the event to commerce, of any kind.  Sure, we could argue that his suggestion of “shews (an older spelling of the term ‘shows‘), and games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and Illuminations…,” assumes one would pay money for these items at a store or other business, but that was not what Adams was getting at in the meaning of the statement.

His written spectacle was about community coming together, despite what differences they had, and celebrating their togetherness, no matter what their manner of celebration was.

How do you celebrate Independence Day?  Do you buy lots of “Fourth of July” labeled and themed products?  Do you travel far from your home to be with loved ones?

Not that either of these things is wrong, but it flies in the face of the most tender idea on this particular day.  I strongly believe that family matters, but if the concept of Adams’ is the truest form of the intent behind this day of Independence, I, and everyone else owes a moment to men and women who fought and sacrificed everything they ever had for this country I live in.  Instead of treating Independence Day as another holiday, we should be celebrating it as intended.  With our neighbors, with the efforts of our own two hands.

Many of the original “Staters” were without their family beyond their immediate household.  I certainly am not against families getting together to celebrate the fourth, but to close off your entire community from your presence is counter to what the intent is.

I’m not saying don’t go grocery shopping, I’m not saying being anti-business.  But instead of relying on commercial products, why not make your celebratory goods from scratch?  Some people do this, be it baking, or cooking, or even more so, grilling.

Why not get together with the people on your street, and make a block party out of the occasion?  Surely, for the intended outcome of one day, we could put our differences aside concerning that parked car in their front yard, or that they borrowed your weed whacker, leaving the trim line empty upon return.

Adams, and all of our forefathers had a big, beautiful dream when they formed this country.  And they also had an even bigger, but more intimate dream when it came to us.

We should surely consider their intent this holiday, and what it means to be truly independent.  Be it hand making our goods, reconnecting with our closest allies, but more to the point, remembering that our independence was because of the magnificent words of our forefathers, but it was more so because of a great sense of community among all.

Happy 240th Birthday, USA!  And happy Independence Day to all!

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