The economy, gas prices, inflation, political divide. Is there anything worth celebrating this 4th of July?
Actually, yes, and quite a bit at that.
Today, we celebrate Independence Day. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. The piece was largely drafted by Thomas Jefferson, and although technically the vote was taken place on July 2nd, July 4th became the day to celebrate the birth of American Independence.
After that day on July 4, 1776, we were free from the British and everything was great until Trump became president. Or maybe it was Obama.
In 1775, many colonists didn’t even want to be set apart from the British. In fact, those who wanted independence from the British were looked at as radicals. However, over the course of the following year with growing hostility towards the British and with the distribution of Thomas Paine’s 47-page pamphlet “Common Sense,” freedom from Britain gained support from the colonies. The colonists experienced, in their minds, unfair taxation, and of course, events such as The Boston Massacre and Boston Tea party, fueled their ambition for freedom.
However, signing the Declaration of Independence did not make the colonies free. In fact, the Revolutionary War-which started in 1775-was not won by the colonies until 1783.
On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was drafted. “A chief aim of the Constitution as drafted by the Convention was to create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that fundamental rights would be at risk. One way that this was accomplished was to separate the power of government into three branches, and then to include checks and balances on those powers to assure that no one branch of government gained supremacy. This concern arose largely out of the experience that the delegates had with the King of England and his powerful Parliament. The powers of each branch are enumerated in the Constitution, with powers not assigned to them reserved to the States.” Only 39 out of the 55 delegates signed the Constitution, many stating the need for a Bill of Rights.
On June 8, 1789, James Madison proposed a series of amendments to the Constitution, and on September 25, twelve amendments were passed by Congress, with articles III-XII becoming the Bill of Rights.
After that, everything went smoothly, and we all lived happily ever after.
Wait, no? Oh yes, there’s more.
Over the next hundred years, America began to move further west. Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory for $15 million dollars from France in 1803. There was the War of 1812, Manifest Destiny, the Oregon Trail, and the Gold Rush. There was displacement of the Native Americans, and the Trail of Tears. And let’s not forget the biggest issue of the 1800’s: slavery.
As America furthered it’s expansion West, the Southern states fought to ensure slavery in these new states, while the Northern states did not want slavery in their states. The Southern states wanted to assert their authority over the federal government so they could abolish laws they didn’t agree with. After Abraham Lincoln-the first Republican president- was elected in 1860-without a single vote from the south-the South realized they had lost all political influence and seceded from the union. Doing so directly led to the Civil War, which lasted from 1861-1865.
After slavery was abolished in America, everything was perfect.
No? Still no?
Oh yes, we still had much work to do. With the passing of the 14th amendment in 1868 (the right to citizenship for all citizens born or naturalized -including former slaves) and the 15th amendment in 1870 (the right to vote regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude), America was far from equal. Although this legalized voting for black men (and many still couldn’t vote in the south due to threats of violence), women did not gain the right to vote until 1920 with the passing of the 19th amendment. Rifts of discord continued throughout the past 100 years, with tensions of racism, sexism, and other -isms. Some still exists today, of course-complete removal of human hatred from any culture might be impossible- yet one would be hard-pressed to pretend that it hasn’t gotten much better.
One could look at our American history and see nothing but sadness, scars, and pain. One could see oppression and violence. We have a past-and the truth is, every nation has a past. Almost all countries are built by conquering another land, war, and violence. Women not having rights is not unique to America-women have been held as less-than or even regarded as property for thousands of years in different cultures. Slavery has also been around for thousands of years and is still around today (40 million people are enslaved worldwide today, with one in four of them being children).
So what is there to celebrate? So much!
Americans-originally called the Patriots-risked their lives to come across an ocean for freedom, many of whom died. Americans fought against the tyranny of the British and won freedom. It was Americans (both black and white) who fought against slavery, and Americans who set the slaves free. It was Americans that fought for equal rights, fought for women’s suffrage, and fought for every human in America for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We aren’t a perfect nation, and we have scars-but we have so much to be proud of. For every misstep America has taken, it was fellow Americans who fought back and fought to liberate the oppressed.
I, for one, align myself with the American Patriots of the past. I am proud that my American ancestors fought for what is right and righted the wrongs of our country. I am proud that we defeated slavery and have given equal rights to all. I am proud that we have a constitution that protects and secures our rights as citizens. I am proud of all those who have fought for our freedom and laid down their lives for us. This freedom we have right here and right now is a gift: a gift many in the world today don’t have. It’s why people still flock to America. America gives people hope for a future and hope for liberty. It is a beacon of light in a world where millions still live under tyranny, dictatorship and oppression. Many wish they could be here and enjoy the freedoms we often take for granted. If only we took a moment to cherish how blessed we are to have this gift.
So although you may feel heavy this 4th of July with worries of the economy, inflation, and political divide: this ain’t our first rodeo, baby. Americans are strong, resilient, and should never stop fighting for what is right in this country. Most importantly, we are free! We’ve come a long way, and we are still the greatest nation in the world-that is something we all should celebrate! Today, take a moment to be thankful to those Americans before us: those who fought for our freedoms; those who laid their lives down for us; those who’ve righted the wrongs of the past; those who paved the way for our equal rights, and those who made life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness possible for us all. Let’s celebrate and appreciate this day together! As John Adams penned to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated [Independence Day], by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
So celebrate, America! And be proud! You are free!