As we know, the 4th of July is about celebrating the 1776 U.S. Declaration of Independence from the British Empire. I wrote yesterday about how future second U.S. president John Adams had correctly foreseen the general spirit of what would become the “independence day” observances – fireworks, etc. He had merely gotten the actual day incorrect – he had thought it would be July 2.
Rightfully the day leads each year not just to fireworks, parades, and patriotic speeches, but also to varying degrees of national self-examination. By what right did a slaveowner write that all men are created equal? Is America all that it should be? Have we not behaved wrongly in the past (as well as perhaps in the present)? What can we do better?
We do nothing in our time in terms of self-examination that those before us did not do back on a 4th of July in, say, “1790.” The United States of America has changed immeasurably since then. Two centuries ago and some, it was a small, isolated, and weak country that counted for little on the then world stage.
But what the U.S. did offer was an “idea”:
As we do to the Americans of “1776,” after we are gone future generations will be offering up opinions about us. Undoubtedly they’ll be debating on whatever is their Twitter and other media about how admirable we were on some matters, as well as how utterly wrongheaded, immoral, and even stupid we had been about others. That is the way of history.
Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂