Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How We Should Be Celebrating Independence Day

John Trumbull, Declaration of Independence, 1818.

As I write these words, military tanks have been rolled into Washington, DC, to participate in the Independence Day “Salute to America,” as dictated by the President--who has also ordered that military service chiefs stand next to him at the observances.

Let us put aside for the moment that all of this seems to be meant as one huge stroke to someone’s ego. Let us ignore that this all smacks of how the old Soviet hierarchy used to gather their political and military leaders on the stand for their highly militaristic May Day parades. Let’s just bracket the idea that this smells of what an insecure leader of a banana republic would command.

Instead, at the risk of mentioning the obvious, let me point this out:

·         Independence Day is not supposed to be a military-oriented celebration.
·         Independence Day is supposed to be a celebration of American freedom and values.

So, this is what I propose instead.

Celebrate the “self-evident truths” stated near the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence states this, in the beginning of its second paragraph (according to the text reported by the National Archives):

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.

These are doubtless among the most thought-provoking and inspirational words ever composed by human beings. So, in a proper Independence Day celebration, let us have displays, floats, and speeches that celebrate these ideals:
·        Let us celebrate the idea that, in America, all people are supposed to be equal--under the law, and as treated by the guardians and enforcers of the law--regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnic background, religious orientation (including no religion at all), personal creed, political party, or status on the socio-economic ladder.
·        Let us celebrate the idea that no one group of people are to be singled out for harassment, imprisonment, or--worst of all--extra-judicial execution, based simply on who they are. (I could go on for pages here, what with the insane things that government executives and legislators in Alabama, Florida, West Virginia and elsewhere have gone on the record saying about people of different gender or sexual orientations than themselves, and even worse, what with the actual killings. by law enforcement officials, of unarmed people of color.)
But wait--there’s more.

Celebrate the rights granted in the Bill of Rights

 You see, although the 1776 Declaration of Independence started the process of building a nation, that process was not complete until the 1788 ratification of the Constitution. Part of that Constitution--a part without which the Constitution as a whole might never have been ratified by the States--is the Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments). The rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights were revolutionary at the time the Constitution was ratified, when compared with the way other
governments in the world were run at the time. Take just the First Amendment, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
 So, let’s have displays, floats, and speeches celebrating this: 
  • There is to be no state-sponsored or sanctioned religion in the United States.
  • We are to have freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press.
  • We are to have the right to assemble peaceably (yes, this includes demonstrations).
  • We are to have the right to petition the Government to fix what we think is wrong.

I could go on this way about each of the parts of the Bill of Rights, but there’s enough here to get the idea.

Independence Day should be about celebrating our ideals and our rights as Americans.
The fact that the national celebration in 2019 in Washington DC is not about this should give us all pause.

Have a great Fourth.
And keep November 2020 in your thoughts. And prayers.
Because a real celebration of American ideals and the rights of the people—especially expressed via the ballot box—is truly On The Mark.

I invite you to become a “follower” of this blog through the box in the upper-right hand corner. I also invite you to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.

Visit Mark Koltko-Rivera’s website.

(Copyright 2019 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Do remember the rules: No profanity, and no personal attacks, particularly on another person leaving a Comment.