Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!


Happy Independence Day!


How Americans Celebrate Independence Day

Every year, millions of Americans gather around tables, grills, and backyards to celebrate the founding of our great country. After a day of baseball games and parades, most every town of any decent size will cap off the Fourth of July with a fireworks display, representing the “bombs bursting in air” at the Battle of Fort McHenry, which also inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”. 


Fourth of July celebrations are extremely tangible; there is an appeal to every sense. Traditional American cookout fare treats our tastes seemingly all day, our sense of smell along with them. Home decor and parades display every possible combination of red, white, and blue to our eyes. We feel the fireworks that define the night in our chest as they reflect in our eyes, the smell of smoke emerging as our ears readjust to normal conversation.


The Fourth of July Celebrates America’s Founding Principles

Independence Day is the quintessential American holiday. This is not necessarily because of what it celebrates, but because of how it celebrates it. A sort of abstract feeling along with their material embodiments underpins other holidays. Christmas lights glisten strung up on Christmas trees, but there is a certain coziness that is atmospheric in a way. Jack-o’-lanterns and bedsheet ghosts decorate streets at Halloween, but even removed from these physical spooks, an eeriness remains.


The Fourth takes nearly all ethereal feelings of pride and patriotism and condenses them into something real. The Fourth of July is in your face, mouthwatering, ear-ringing, night-sky-illuminating, town-square-filling, chest-thumping, bold: as I said, quintessentially American.


All of this is good. However, I want to use my space in the Cardinal’s Nest blog to spur some thought on what it is we really celebrate on the Fourth of July. I would argue that we are not just celebrating the foundation of our country. There are, by some counts, more than 190 countries in the world, and no one has, in this American’s view, what we have in the Fourth of July. 


On July 4th, we are celebrating an incarnation, where things immaterial have become concrete. In 1776, a country was born that, better than anywhere else, embodied Western and Enlightenment thought. It was the embodiment of these principles that set the course for the United States to become what it is today: the greatest country in the world.


The Declaration of Independence

No better summation of these thoughts is found than in the opening two paragraphs of our Declaration of Independence:


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.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


Independence Day Is a Time to Reflect

So I ask you, fellow Americans, as our raucous American celebration of America’s independence nearly overwhelms your senses, to remember to reflect on the ideas that make America who she is: certain unalienable rights, the equality of creation between all men, and the centrality of the consent of the governed. 


Happy Fourth from my family to yours!


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