Reflections on an American Holiday

Many Americans celebrate July 4th with cookouts, parades, and fireworks with family and friends. For most, the holiday offers a needed respite from work and a hard-earned opportunity to indulge in food and drink. The day marks our break from the British Empire and our declaration of independence.

Congress_voting_independence
Robert Edge Pine, Congress Voting Independence, c. 1784-1888 (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

The founding fathers of the United States were reflective, thoughtful men. (Yes, some were slaveholders and other opprobrious things. One should not look to men for angels. Even the saints bore many flaws and sins). Would such men survive in our current culture of talking heads, incessant distractions, and boundless consumption? I would find it difficult to argue in the affirmative.

Does our contemporary society honor the legacy of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams? These individuals prided themselves in their education and knowledge. Imagine a contemporary politician discussing Plato or Livy or their passion for poetry or gardening. They could only hope to be tarnished as “French” or “elitist.” This sadly answers the question.

During the summer, try to investigate and enjoy our country’s history and heritage. Visit a historic site. Read a biography or a history–a legitimate publication, not some partisan instabook by a talk-show host or a self-proclaimed “intellectual.” Turn off the radio and the television. Think about the American Revolution (or any favorite moment in our history), its actors, and its context. Finally, talk to a colleague, acquaintance, or friend about what you learned. Better yet, invite them along to join your next adventure or lend them a book.

This is how our shared history will survive. This is how you might carry the spirit of 1776. While you’re at it, don’t hesitate to grab a hotdog and a beer. History can be fun.

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