Believe it or not, this is a question that more and more Americans have difficulty answering. The sad truth is that with each passing generation our history is being forgotten, and fewer people even know what it means to be an American.
I never realized just how far gone we were as a society until I was shown a video that is equal parts amusing and depressing shot by author and media analyst Mark Dice. In the video, he asked numerous people just what they were celebrating, with frankly terrifying results.
After seeing the aforementioned video, I couldn’t believe that we had fallen so far and decided to test it for myself. Over the course of Independence Day weekend, I asked virtually every person I ran into what they were celebrating. While my results weren’t the almost 100% failure rate shown in his video (let’s be honest, videos are always edited), I did discover that well over 50% of the people I asked either had no clue, or answered completely wrong. At the rate we’re going, I would not be surprised if my grandchildren grow up being taught that July 4th is the celebration of the invention of beer.
For those of you who are interested, here is this years video by Mark Dice on the subject:
So, I ask again; just what are we celebrating this weekend? In the year 1776, the thirteen American colonies were engaged in a bloody battle for independence from Great Britain. In June of that year, representatives from each of the colonies deliberated over a resolution to formally declare that independence. On July 2nd, the Constitutional Congress voted in favor of the declaration and on the fourth, the Declaration of Independence was officially adopted. Every year since, it has been celebrated as the birth of American independence.
But, I Digress…
The point of this article is not to remind America what we are supposed to be celebrating (regardless of how necessary such a lesson would be). Rather, I intend to point out a problem with how it is celebrated. Independence Day isn’t just a celebration of our independence, but a day of remembrance for those who willingly gave their lives to make that independence possible. And, while our forefathers who so bravely fought for our rights are long since gone, we should also remember that the battle for independence is ongoing. Every day, men and women of the Armed Forces put their lives on the line to protect that which the Founding Fathers held so dear.
As someone who has served his country, I can tell you that for many veterans, the two days we most dread are the Fourth of July, and New Year’s Eve. Why, you ask? Because even amongst those of us who did make it home, few returned the same as they left. Many of us spend the remainder of our lives hyper-vigilant, observing everything around us; expecting to see the enemy in every shadow, around every corner. When a car backfires, we jump. What do you think happens when we don’t see fireworks coming?
I’m not saying that fireworks are inherently wrong. On the contrary, after several years of avoiding them, I can finally watch the community fireworks display without looking for something to shoot at every time one goes up. While such displays might still put me on edge, I respect the symbolism therein and can even enjoy them… when I know they’re coming. My problem is with the unofficial fireworks displays that people like to put on for sheer entertainment. The week leading up to the fourth, random one-off fireworks still plague my existence. I can’t see them coming, I can’t prepare for them… in a word, they’re terrifying. There is absolutely no good reason for anyone to be setting off fireworks directly in front of the living room window of a veteran, and yet that seems to be the only place people care to do so. In fact, beyond being generally inconsiderate (whether or not the target is a veteran), in many places (including where I live) it’s completely illegal!
So… all that being said, I ask of you two things. First, find a moment amongst the drunken revelry, hotdogs, and the like to think about why you are celebrating. Think about the men and women who have given their lives in the pursuit and defense of independence for our great nation. Second, before you set off your next firework, take a moment to think about where you’re doing it, and who you might be affecting by doing it.
As always, be safe and enjoy our Independence Day!