July 4th, 2010

Independence Day: Just Another Holiday

photo credit: FrogMiller

One day each year, Americans celebrate Independence Day—or better put, the “Fourth of July”. Flags are erected, fireworks are purchased en masse, parades are organized, and millions of pounds of meat are consumed. The celebrations and fanfare end, and America reverts back to its 364 days of normalcy, in which anything close to independence is rarely recognizable, often derided, and continually portrayed as unreasonable extremism.

The open secret, of course, is that the standard Fourth of July holiday activities have little to do with the remembrance and celebration of independence. Instead, the holiday has become a pseudo-nationalistic, self-congratulatory event during which participants express their love for America. Generally absent, however, are the activities that recall and reaffirm the conditions in which America was founded, and the application of those experiences and principles in our own day.

Consider just one example: how many individuals will, in celebration of Independence Day, read the brief yet powerful document that declared our independence? When was the last time the average American even so much as bothered to read a portion of it? When was the last time you read it?

As illustration of what I’m referring to when arguing that today’s holiday is generally void of any connection to the ideas and events it claims to memorialize, consider the following two potent portions of the Declaration of Independence:

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.

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.

These are bold, unapologetic affirmations that have direct and explicit application to our own day. They are not slogans to be repeated on a single day and laced in patriotic colors, but are guiding principles to which our actions should daily conform if we claim to appreciate independence. Those who embrace fireworks and fanfare without complementary political activity throughout the year have only the most superficial of reasons to celebrate; summer soldiers fleeing battle at the sign of conflict may cheer for their country’s victories, but such actions ring hollow.

Independence Day can only have any true meaning if we spend the rest of the year fighting for the ideals we all claim to love, just as Christmas is of little value if we don’t worship Christ throughout the year, and a celebration of our mothers and fathers falls on deaf ears if we do not express our appreciation and love on occasions when we are not so culturally coerced.

This day has rich meaning, but its importance is fraudulently usurped when celebrated by those who lack any commitment to perpetuating the principles and political outcome our Declaration of Independence produced. Flags, fireworks, parades, and barbecues are all innocuous things themselves, but if we truly want to celebrate our independence, why not take some time to understand what that really means?

5 Responses to “Independence Day: Just Another Holiday”

  1. Kelly W.
    July 4, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    Mormons miss the mark by listening to Sean Hannity at the Stadium of Fire.

  2. rmwarnick
    July 4, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    During the heyday of protest in the late 1960s, long-haired students were recruited for a political science experiment to see if they could persuade anyone to sign a copy of the Declaration of Independence. You can guess the result.

    Very few Americans even today would sign such a radical manifesto. In 1776, given the very real threat of imprisonment and destruction of their homes, it’s hard to believe 56 prominent men would sign it.

  3. Josh Gardner
    July 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    I’m kind of glad Independence Day falls on a Sunday this year. On the day itself, no big parades or fireworks (at least around here). I can read the Declaration with my family, and discuss its history and meaning, not too different from how Independence Day was celebrated in past. I think I’ll do that.

    Great article as always, Connor.

  4. Federal Farmer
    July 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

    Appreciate the post, Connor. While I enjoy the festivities, I care more for the meaning behind our celebrations. As a child, my father would always read us the “Declaration of Independence” and explain its significance. That ritual has remained in my mind more firmly than any fireworks display or parade.

  5. Connor
    July 4, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Here’s a video that palpably demonstrates my point.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.