I go through the motions. I sweat it out watching fireworks. I do the picnics. But my heart just has not been in it. I haven’t really given it that much thought until this year.
I love the fact that I live in the United States, the land of opportunity. I appreciate the freedoms we have and truly value those who have fought for them. Yesterday, I began to wonder why it is that I don’t feel connected to this holiday. Then I heard the cloying lyrics to “I’m Proud to be an American” bleating out of the speakers at the grocery store. Suddenly, it all became clear.
I have no problem at all with being proud of being an American…but I do take issue with sentiments that alienate us from everyone else. I have a problem with jingoism and national pride taken to the extreme. Those who would take our luck of the draw on being born under the government that we have been as some sort of indication of individual superiority. But there is something worth celebrating today. I had forgotten it.
235 years ago today, our founding fathers did something so wildly daring and extreme that it boggles the mind. They spoke on behalf of the colonies and said, to the most powerful government in the world at the time, “ENOUGH!” They announced their intent to separate from the oppressive rule of the British monarchy, even though we were clearly no match for their force. The odds were against us, but the colonies had the strength of their conviction. And that conviction was strong enough for them to commit to something that would certainly result in countless deaths and the likelihood of defeat. A betting man would not have picked the freshly united colonies to win this battle. But win they did. Although, the very act of writing and signing the Declaration of Independence, given those odds, is enough reason to for celebration.
So, today, I am celebrating that spirit. I celebrate the spirit of rising up and fighting for what is right, even though the odds are against you. I am celebrating those who made a pact to stand together in the face of almost certain defeat to defend their right, and each other’s, to have a voice in how they are governed. I am celebrating that union of brothers and sisters, who had so much faith in their mission that they were willing to cast aside the comfort of what they knew to pursue something more authentically representative of who they had become together. I salute those who recognized that “united we stand and divided we fall.” That is a sentiment that has the power to reach around the entire world to embrace everyone who faces tyranny of any kind.
And that is a sentiment worthy of fireworks.