"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday America .....

"Yesterday the greatest question was decided... and a greater question perhaps never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states."John Adams, Letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776

Holidays are funny. They make you feel like you should be doing something holidayish. And if you are not, there must be something wrong.
  • For Thanksgiving you must have family for dinner.
  • For Christmas, again you must have family surrounding you and children's laughter ringing through the house.
  • For Valentine's Day there should be dinner and candles.
  • And on the 4th of July there has to be a cookout and fireworks with lots of friends.

But tonight I am sitting on the couch after a long day of work and I am listening to far away booms. And I feel like something is missing, though I can't seem to put my finger on it. I should be doing something - but I have no desire to do so. If this was any other Tuesday of the year (unless of course it was Valentine's day, or Thanksgiving or Christmas) I would be very happy sitting on my couch, watching TV and writing my blog. But tonight something seems off.

What would the founding fathers think? What were they doing 236 years ago? Were their families making potato salad and thawing hot dogs? I think not. I think they were worried about the country they were creating. They were at war, the country was in debt, they were creating rules and laws that others would  have to follow - were they the right rules - would the country survive? I envision men in their homes pacing and wondering. The big bangs thundering in the night coming from the "enemy" and stressing the importance of their work

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress,         Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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." ~Declaration of Independence 1776

I spent quite some time looking for some quick quotes from the Founding Fathers for this blog. I found a few but I could not find any as perfect as the Declaration itself. Because on this night 236 years ago men were preparing for a meeting to create a "more perfect union."

It is unfortunate to me that the US Constitution has been so distorted to meet the needs of the people who choose to use it to support extremism (I include extremes on both the right and left). It is the same way people distort the Bible or the Koran. But I did find several that I found both amusing and relevant:

  • "We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate." ~ Thomas Jefferson
  • "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." ~ Thomas Jefferson
  • "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately" Benjamin Franklin, (attributed) at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

I have said it before and I will probably say it again. I LOVE my country. I am proud that this is part of my heritage (I am not naive, I know American has a less than stellar history in our treatment of people). But I am proud in the idea of America, I am proud that I have accomplished the American Dream (kind of). And I am proud that I live in a country where I can go to the Boston Common and stand on a soap box and scream at the top of my lungs that there are things about my government that I hate (I may get arrested for screaming - but not for saying I disagree with my government).

So tonight I leave you with the reason we celebrate - because on this day we chose independence. On this day we chose our own fate - instead of allowing others to choose for us. On this day we became one nation. I may not have anything special to do, there probably will not be a backyard full of people eating hot dogs and hamburgers at my house. But in my own way I say thank you to the founding fathers for igniting freedom -

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--


  1. Happy birthday indeed! And thank you for your quiet reflections and obvious pride in your country. America has much to be proud of and although, as you suggest, there are negatives the USA is a beacon in the world. No one has been more critical or scathing than I of many aspects of American life and actions and of particular politicians but these must be set against the much bigger picture of the great good and great service that the USA has given in the nation's relatively short life.
    One of my all time favourite books is Carl Sandburg's "Abraham Lincoln" - an inspiring tale of all that is best in America and the American psyche. I have loved it for the whole of my adult life. Your blog has inspired me to re-read it. I currently have it on the arm of my chair and have just flicked to the moving final chapter "Vast pageant then great Quiet" - telling of Lincoln's funeral. What an inspiration! Thank you Leann for reminding me - and happy birthday America!

  2. Tony - I can not tell you how honored I am that you read my blog! You give me much to reflect on. Thank you.