Why The Fourth Of July Is Still Worth Celebrating
This weekend people around the country will be gathering together with family and friends, organizing cook-outs, traveling to sun-drenched beaches, in short, enjoying themselves in recognition of the America’s first step toward becoming a new nation, in remembrance of the day we declared ourselves free of British rule and announced to the world that we were no longer subjects of King George III.
That day, July 4, 1776, was one of the most extraordinary days in the history of humankind.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
These are words that you and I have heard thousands of times; and the sentiment behind them is one that is taken for granted nowadays. But strange as it may seem until the publication of Mr. Jefferson’s remarkable little pamphlet no one had actually bothered to write them down.
July 4th is more than an American holiday; it is more than a day for barbeques and lemonade and fireworks; it is the anniversary day of a revolution in human affairs: the day on which a free people articulated in rich, eloquent, and powerful language the principles and conditions of their freedom.
It is easy and quite understandable for you and every other American to be disenchanted and disillusioned about the current state of the country. The mayhem and madness, the chaos and confusion that is now the government of the world’s oldest republic may get you to thinking that there is little to celebrate.
But that is the exact opposite of the right attitude to take.
When you are out with friends and loved ones this Fourth, remember this, and here I borrow from and take exception to Abraham Lincoln: the dogmas of the quiet past are adequate to the stormy present.
If we accept the American ideal as a dogma, then it is something to hold on to—it is a piece of emotional and intellectual furniture to comfort and fortify us as we pass through this spell of danger and darkness. Rationality, liberality, and pluralism are the values which guided the men who forged this nation. They believed it was possible for people to govern themselves, to make laws grounded in reason and experience, and to elect and send forth to represent them in a various legislative bodies the best citizens in their communities.
That this rarely happens, that this last year has seen the opposite of the latter—that is, the sending to Washington the worst of our citizens—does not mean it isn’t possible. Where there exists one or two people who still believe in the founding principles of the American republic, there is hope that the country can live up to its promise; that ignorance, stupidity, superstition, bigotry, and greed can be defeated, and that a more humane and enlightened way of organizing human life can come to the fore.
There remain plenty of good reasons to celebrate the Fourth of July; not just as a day off work, but as a recognition of what it means to be free.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.