Clearing Up July 4th Confusion


Here in the US we celebrated July 4th this week. That’s our Independence Day. It’s a little off according to historical facts, but nevertheless, it’s the day we observe.

Except, it’s actually become somewhat confused with two other days we set aside each year—Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. The first was originally designated as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, which was why November 11 was originally chosen. It was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 and became a day to honor those Americans who served or were serving in the military.

The second, Memorial Day, is set aside in May to pay tribute to the members of the military who died serving their country and actually came into being some time after the Civil War.

So we honor service members in November and those who sacrificed their lives for their country in May. What then are we celebrating on Independence Day?

In reality, this holiday grew out of thankfulness that we have a country. It celebrates the declaration of independence from the British empire, though the Continental Congress actually voted for independence two days earlier. The formal signing of the document that grew from that vote became the day we acknowledge as the birth of the US.

So in reality, our celebrations should center on our foundation, not on the Constitution, which wouldn’t be written for another decade or more, not on our flag which hadn’t been created yet, not on our military because it was non-existent at the time.

What we had was a Continental Congress and a Declaration of Independence. And that’s quite enough to celebrate.

Here’s how it begins:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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,— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

I can’t help but wonder if we as a nation still hold these truths to be self-evident.

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