Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July!

Today is July 4th, Independence Day - the day we Americans celebrate our independence from Great Britain. On this day in 1776 the Second Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. It had been more than a year since the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington, Massachusetts, and it would be another seven years before the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. There was a small Independence Day celebration in Philadelphia the following year, but celebrations didn't become common until after the War of 1812, and it wasn't until 1870 that Congress passed a law declaring the Fourth of July a federal holiday.

Today, of course, the Fourth of July is the high point and major holiday of the summer. Parades are held in many towns and cities, and huge fireworks displays are held...nowadays, at least in the places that can still afford them. It's a time for picnics, celebrations, family reunions, and having a good time as we start the long march to autumn and winter. It's the time for advertisements featuring cheesy shills dressed as Uncle Sam, who encourage us to buy cars, mattresses, furniture, new houses, and all manner of other things by pulling on the string of patriotism that runs through the hearts of most Americans.

At this time in our history, when we are beset by so many problems and threats to our way of life, it's a good thing to look back at the time when there wasn't yet a United States of America. When a man named George Washington learned to be a commanding general on the job, and a group of patriots with a dream risked their lives to secure their independence from the rule of a distant king. These were people - men and women - who fought for an idea that was framed in the words of the Declaration of Independence and shaped later into a government for a new nation in the words of the Constitution.

Today, it's a holiday and a chance to relax with family and friends. Then, it was a time of hope for a better future in the terrible shadow of war and rebellion.

As we celebrate Independence Day today, it probably wouldn't be a bad thing to reflect on the nation for which the Founders desperately fought 234 years ago.

Today, America is reviled in many countries that nevertheless happily accept our foreign aid. Radical Islamic leaders call America "The Great Satan" and guarantee their brainwashed followers a place in heaven for killing Americans. And yet it's America that everyone expects to help in times of disaster, America that desperate people risk their lives to enter illegally, and America that gives selflessly of blood and treasure to help when others are in need. You don't have to take my word for it...just compare the number of people who come to the US legally and illegally with the number of people who clamor for the privilege of living in, say, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea.

Today, most Americans take for granted the freedoms that were bought so dearly down the long years since 1776. We seldom think that those freedoms were purchased and insured by the actions of people great and small who gave their time, their fortunes, and even their lives to secure the nation whose independence we celebrate today. It's up to us to keep the dream of 1776 alive and ensure that America remains the beacon of hope and freedom it has been throughout its history.

In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." In these difficult times, each of us can do a lot.

So, my friends, enjoy the Fourth of July. And as you head for the parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, and parades, don't forget that it's up to you to ensure that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the freedoms we celebrate today.

God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.

Have a great holiday. More thoughts tomorrow.



Chrissy said...

Wow! Great post! That made me tear up a little. Guess I should give thanks to those that came before us... before cramming another hotdog and corona lite in my face this afternoon!

John said...

Great post, Bilbo! I'm stealing for my holiday post!

Bandit said...

As always Bilbo, eloquently stated.
I'm looking forward to watching the festivities tonight from D. C.

Mike said...

Going to my sisters tonight. She lives next to a park that has a band stand where they do a summer series. On the 4th the band that plays always does the William Tell Overture. They also have a civil war reenactment unit with cannons.

There is also a church on every corner of the park. They don't do this anymore (why?), but all the churches used to ring their bells during the cannon part of the song also.

The whole point being you were sitting on the hill side watching the band below. The cannons were a few hunreds yards to the left. The churches were all around you. So you were right in the middle of it all.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A fab post. Happy 4th from a friend in Britain.

Bandit said...

I'm sure that Mike means Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. It will no doubt be performed tonight on the mall in D.C. with cannons, bells (or chimes), and fireworks.

Mike said...

@Bandit - Yes I did mean that.

Anonymous said...

You're definitely on a roll! Keep up the good work.

Eminence Grise