On July 4th of each year, most Americans celebrate Independence Day, that day in our history when we declared to the world our independence from the British Empire. Most of us don't call it Independence Day. We simply call it the Fourth of July. And that's fine. Cinco de Mayo for Mexicans is a similar celebration. And the name they give it means, simply, Fifth of May. So what you call the day is less important than what it stands for, and how you remember it.
When the Declaration of Independence was written, Americans were already fighting the forces of the British Empire. Our Liberty was by no means certain, the future was in doubt, and would remain so for many years to come. As the Continental Congress debated the Declaration Americans were dying in their attempt to free themselves from the benevolent tyranny of Great Britain. When Congress voted on the Declaration German troops were already on their way across the Atlantic, sent to fight American rebels by their Rulers, among them George III of Britain, the nominal ruler of Hesse-Kassel.
Not a nation on earth expected the British Colonies in America to survive, much less win, their revolution against the might of the British Empire. Few Americans believed they could win. Yet, the men of the Second Continental Congress passed the Declaration and signed it, knowing full well that once it was printed and dispersed to the people of the 13 colonies, their lives would be in danger. Captured, the British would likely hang them as traitors.
But they went ahead. Despite their own doubts, their own fears, their own self-interest in many ways, they signed that revolutionary document, continued to act together as a Congress, and put the best interests of their fellow Americans above their own.
Claims have been made in the past that these men suffered unduly because their signatures were on the Declaration. Most are false. The fact is that they, like their countrymen, suffered the privations that the War brought to their home and lands. No more, no less. They became a part of the Revolution and its hardships just as did their neighbors.
These days it's fashionable to complain that we don't show enough respect for our forefathers on the 4th of July, that rather than solemn services and patriotic parades, we Americans use that day to annoy our neighbors with loud fireworks, have picnics, watch sporting events, and generally simply enjoy Independence Day as another official Day Off.
Well? Why the hell not? That's Freedom! That's Liberty! To do what we wish, when we wish, as long as we respect our fellow Americans - setting off fireworks at 4 in the morning is not respectful! If you do things like that I trust a large bird will shit on your head! - without fear of Government forces or agents, penalizing us. We are free to go to church and worship GOD for our hard-fought Freedom, or pop a few brews and watch NASCAR. And in this, the greatest nation on the face of GOD's green earth, it's nobody's business but our own.
Would I prefer some real remembrance of what we celebrate? Of course! Men and women died so that we, their descendants, would be free. That's a heavy price to pay. But pay it they did. And we should remember and be thankful. And if we don't? Well, shame on us. But we have the Freedom to be shallow, if we wish.
Me? This year I am actually off on Independence Day. Perhaps my Folks will invite me up for the day. If not, I will relax at home. I'll have a few beers, maybe make a steak, and read, watch TV, and do some writing. I don't have to make a show of my patriotism, or a show of my solemnity. I know what happened after 4 July, 1776, and I remember it in my heart. I hope you do, too!
Be safe! And GOD Bless America! Happy Birthday, USA!