Another Fourth of July has rolled around and almost every American participates in the celebration in one way or another. Even though most everyone knows the Fourth is the birthday of the United States of America, little thought or reverence is given to the original birth of the Declaration of Independence which was adopted by our Founding Fathers on July 4, 1776.
It's understandable that people don't want to be bored with a history lesson on this important holiday, they just want to go some place to have fun and be a participant or spectator to some event related to America's traditional celebration.
Going back to 1776, one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, said, "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized as the day of deliverance with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore."
Well, that prediction by John Adams was pretty much right on the money as the way this nation has carried on the traditional ceremonial events. One thing that has changed more recently, perhaps for the better, is our heavy accent on fireworks. I remember when I was a kid we used to buy the biggest firecracker we could find and see how high we could blow a tin can into the air. But there were so many deaths and injuries from fireworks and shooting of guns and cannons that cities and states began to outlaw the sale of the most dangerous types of fireworks in order to have a "Safe and Sane" Fourth. Nowadays most fireworks are exploded by trained experts who set them off at community celebrations after dark on July 4th. Those displays are awesome and draw huge crowds.
Getting back to the document which started this enduring celebration, most everybody remembers studying a little bit about the Declaration of Independence back in seventh grade civics class, but how many have bothered to reread it when they became serious adults and participating citizens of this nation?
I'm sure many of us remember that part of the preamble that states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Although these are powerful words of wisdom, they are only a small part of the Declaration of Independence. Actually, this document is quite lengthy and it spells out in explicit detail all of the grievances and usurpations that the 13 colonies had suffered under the tyranny of the King of Great Britain.
The founders duly noted that long established governments should not be changed "for light and transient causes, but when a long train of abuses and usurpations occur, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government."
Then the document goes on to actually list 27 different abuses the colonists had to endure under King George. They also reminded the Crown that "at every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms, but they have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity."
Finally, they wrote: "that all political connections between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved." And the document ends with one of the most memorable sentences in American history: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
So have yourself a joyous and safe Fourth, whether at a parade, fireworks display or backyard barbecue. But when you get some free time, turn off the television and reread the Declaration of Independence. Remember this manuscript preceded the Revolutionary War, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so it can be truthfully stated as the birth of all our freedoms we still enjoy today, including the right to celebrate the Fourth of July any way we choose. And be happy when they play the "Star Spangled Banner" before the ball game instead of "God Save the Queen."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!