Monday, July 04, 2005

What Independence Day Truly Means

Cross posted at Madam

Ever hear this riddle: do the British have the 4th of July. Of course they do- it's just after the 3rd!

Quite droll. Of course, the intended affect that it's supposed to have is that the person thinks, gee, the British wouldn't celebrate the 4th since that's the day America split. But I think that the interchangability of "The Fourth of July" and "Independence Day"- the 4th of July is just as significant as April 23rd or June 6th or December 25th. And perhaps even more so than Memorial Day or Veterans Day- meaningful times to be sure- Independence Day is a time to reflect.

Why is America something to struggle for independence over. The world today contains over 200 independent nations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from Russia to Vatican City, from Australia to Iceland. Is America special? Of course the stock answer is usually give in the historical; our founding fathers staked their careers, their reputations, and even their lives on the idea that republicanism could thrive for the first time in recorded history. That is a scary concept, when one stops to think about it. There were many that hedged their bets and waited to see how things played out, and others that skirted back to Monarchial Britain or Canada. But few of their names have been remembered in posterity.

And all this is endlessly important. But it misses the point. The reason that Independence Day is important is that America is independent today, right now. And the concept of American independence is infinitely more than sovereignty between the coastlines, the Great Lakes and the Rio Grande. America is more than a georgraphical concept, it is an idea that should continue to guide our mission today. Any society on the face of this globe- even the ne'er do'ells of Europe and the unwanteds of the globe- are capable of sustaining themselves through self-governance. And not only is it possible, but it is occurring today, and refining itself as we speak. America is stronger today than 5 years ago, than 20 years ago, than 100 years ago, and few doubt it will be more strong 5 years from now.

But the idea of America, of unfettered independence and self-governance, is a scary one, and detractors to the great hypothesis will always exist. But never will American citizens be pleased with an America built upon mere self-preservation, or raison d'etat. Instead, America must not merely exist, but it must mean something. And every year that America can once again celebrate its independence is another year that the global project continues, although hardly unfettered and unharmed. Remember that tonight as you watch your fireworks and tomorrow as you go to work- in her affairs may she always be right, but America, my home, right or wrong!

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