Happy Independence Day! Yes, Independence Day.
Fourth of July conjures up images of picnics and fireworks, fun things to be sure, but I fear such things have become our only association with what should be a sacred holiday. This date marks the birth, not of a nation, but of an idea in the form of a nation. It marks the formal recognition of the idea that we are all free and equal.
To be sure, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted 241 years ago, not everyone was free and not everyone was considered equal. Do not disparage those members of the Continental Congress for failing to recognize that, however. Most of us fail to rise to the level of our ideals, and the Founders were bound by their Time, which shaped their perception. So are we. They were bound by their Time, but their idea is timeless.
Being “free and equal” carries many responsibilities which I think may be boiled down to two commandments: First, be generous in regard for others and second, be cautious in believing everything you think; or were taught to think.
If you fret over our “slow” progress in this regard, keep in mind that 241 years is a mere moment historically speaking and that, furthermore, the United States is still the only country founded on an idea that has managed to survive, at least up to this point.
For those of you with an interest in our Founding—and that should be all of you—I strongly recommend that you read Patriots by A. J. Langguth. I also strongly recommend that you watch the musical 1776, which is being broadcast tonight at 10:15 on Turner Classic Movies. This brilliantly written book and cleverly conceived and executed movie illuminate the oft-forgotten fact that our Founders were quite human and not just figures in an oil painting. It is good to remind ourselves of the struggles that took place, whether at Bunker Hill or in Independence Hall, that produced . . . us.
Enjoy this Independence Day but be sure to connect to the first Independence Day.