Why we celebrate the Fourth of July: a short history lesson

Strike up the bands, cue the fireworks and stock up on supplies: the Fourth of July weekend is now upon us! The great holiday which commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 which is observed every year, with great celebration, pomp and circumstance by millions and millions of people across the U.S. Like most of our grand holidays in this country, people will indulge — and in some cases, overindulge — in food, alcoholic beverage, fun in the sun, and general revelry and merriment. I mean, after all, it’s a tradition which we are free to uphold.

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people who militantly wave the American flag, who claim to be “super patriotic,” actually have little clue as to what the holiday is about. Most just go through the motions and celebrate because that is what they are expected to do; unthinkingly follow the long-standing tradition. They just have their cookouts, drink their beer (or other spirits) and when done, call it a day. I’m pretty sure a lot of people either fell asleep in their white-washed History class when the subject was talked about or, worse yet, this skipped class altogether that day.

So, a short history lesson: according to the History Channel web site, the Declaration of Independence was originally written by Thomas Jefferson, a white man and famous slave owner (isn’t there just a hint of irony here???) and later edited and revised by a bunch of other white men. A 56-member Congress adopted — not signed, as is commonly believed — the document on July 4, 1776 (it was later signed by all these men officially on Aug. 2). What it basically did was free the original 13 colonies in the U.S. from British rule, after some long, bloody battling had been going on between the U.S. and the British.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable 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.”

The outcome was that Americans now had the freedom to choose the people who governed them (through elections), to worship in the religion of their choice, and to live free of the tyranny of British rule. These are the freedoms we are all celebrating every year at this time, now for the 244th time since the “original” Independence Day.

Although it was 44 years ago, I still clearly remember the grand bicentennial celebration (in other words, 200 years since the adoption of the Declaration). My immediate family and I lived at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, in 1976. We went to a huge green space and witnessed a spectacular fireworks show to beat all other fireworks shows. There were tons of people there (or maybe it seemed so to my pre-adolescent self) and it was peaceful, relaxing and absolutely fabulous. I recall no riots, shootings, or stabbings. Just a bunch of people enjoying a wondrous celebration with their friends and neighbors. Let freedom ring, as they said, and have continued to say over the years.

So hopefully you all have enjoyed this short history lesson. So have your bbq dinners and drink a toast to the men who authored and ratified the Declaration of Independence all those years ago. I also hope you all “celebrate responsibly,” as liquor and beer commercials say, remembering that this is one of the deadliest holidays of the years because so many people overindulge in alcoholic drink. Don’t be one of them and become a statistic. Cheers!!

Experienced professional writer/freelancer and former newspaper reporter-turned-online writer/blogger. Thinker. “Old soul”, young hippie, empath.

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