For practical reasons, I shouldn’t love Independence Day so much. I’m a pale, mosquito-attracting woman living in Florida, so a holiday in July that focuses on outdoor events should, logically, be my least favorite of the year. But it’s not; I love the Fourth of July. I love the whole red-white-and-blue-wearing, John-Phillip-Sousa-playing, firework-popping celebration.
I love Independence Day because it’s the only holiday that Americans don’t use as an excuse to argue with each other. On Independence Day, Americans of all stripes are genuinely proud and patriotic, without irony or defensiveness. We don’t compete to see who honors the troops most or criticize those who choose barbecues over solemn services; we don’t serve turkey with a side of guilt about what really happened to indigenous people when Europeans came to North America; and we don’t try to score political points in arguments about saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.”
OK, yes, I’m sure that when I turn on the TV today, I’ll see some pundit or politician on cable news trying to use this day to push an agenda. And, yes, it’s fair to point out that our country was born with deep, violent divisions and flaws that still plague us now. As a nation, our past is troubled, our present is difficult, and our future is uncertain; but that’s not what Independence Day is about.
On the Fourth of July, we Americans don’t celebrate what our country was, is, or will be; we celebrate what it should, could, and might be. We don’t celebrate America, the mixed-up reality of successes and failures; we celebrate America, the brilliant and unique ideal that holds us together despite the trials and conflict:
“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.”
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans — those born to this ideal and those who chose it. May we always hold dear the Life and Liberty as we pursue the Happiness.