As you all know, on July 4th we will be celebrating Independence Day. All across the country, and even in other places around the world, Americans will be celebrating with a patriotic intensity unmatched by any other celebration, by any other people. Though we all celebrate differently, there are some aspects of this great holiday that seem ubiquitous. We all seem to grill, drink, enjoy fireworks displays, and spend time with friends and family.
Regardless of how we celebrate, the reasons we celebrate are the same. We’re celebrating our country, its birth, its longevity, and our hopes for its continued existence in the future. Above all, we’re celebrating our freedom—freedom that is uniquely American. We would not have this freedom if it weren’t for the men who started our great country, the Founding Fathers.
Since preschool, we’ve all learned about our Founding Fathers and what they did. This basic history carried me through the early years of my life. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized how incredibly badass the Founding Fathers really were. Yes, I know. Badass is an overused word, but it truly is the best way to describe them.
Think about it. People in what would become the first 13 states of our country were fed up with the British government. They were tired of being overtaxed, underrepresented, and mistreated. Not all people felt this way, but a significant amount did. At some point, a group of men got together and said, “Hey, this is a load of horseshit.” They decided it was time for change. Eventually, after a series of events (I don’t want to turn this into a history lesson, but I’m talking about the various taxes, the Boston Massacre, etc.) they decided it was time for a Revolution.
This is where the Founding Fathers really showed how badass they were. They decided to rebel against what was at that time the greatest imperial power on the face of the earth. A group of men from the colonies decided to take on the most formidable military in the world. Not only did they do this, but they did it without the full support of their neighbors. Not everyone in the colonies was for the Revolution, fuck those guys.
They knew that if they did not sign that letter telling King George III to go fuck himself, there would be no new nation.
The Founding Fathers started a provisional government, raised an army, and prepared to fight. Men with names we all know, George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Horatio Gates, “Mad” Anthony Wayne, Richard Montgomery, and Henry Knox, led troops on the field of battle, head-to-head with British Regulars. Men like Francis Marion and Daniel Morgan led frontiersmen in battles in the swamps of South Carolina and the back country of the Appalachians. Men like John Paul Jones took on the powerful Royal Navy with the fighting spirit embodied by Jones’ immortal words, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Foreign-born fighters like Friedrich von Steuben, Marquis de LaFayette, Comte de Rochambeau, Kazimierz Pulaski, Johann de Kalb, and Tadeusz Kosciusko recognized the potential the new nation had and the justness in its cause.
Men from across the thirteen colonies joined the cause. They left behind homes, farms, and families in order to fight and if need be, die, for what they thought was right. They endured the elements, hunger, disease, hot lead, and cold steel as they toiled and fought for their newborn nation. They knew the risk was great, but the reward was greater. They lived by Patrick Henry’s famous words: “Give me liberty, or give me death.”
Even those who fought for liberty with the pen, rather than the sword, took great risks. Statesmen and diplomats who sought to create the laws by which the new nation would be governed and to achieve recognition and assistance from other countries knew their lives were on the line. They all knew that if the Revolution failed, they would likely be the first to swing from the gallows. They knew that without their work, the army would not get paid, supplied, fed, or led. They knew that there could be no governing body for the people without their work. They knew that if they did not sign that letter telling King George III to go fuck himself, there would be no new nation. Despite the risks, they did what they knew was right.
No matter what role they played in the creation of our country, be they soldiers or statesmen, all the Founding Fathers shaped the nation we call home today. Without them, there’s no telling what our lives would be like now. Would we be more European had they not had the balls to rebel against tyranny? As I look out the window of my hotel room in Prague and see men wearing cargo capris and carrying purses, I shudder at the thought of it. I think of the oppression, tyranny, and lack of rights that plagued Europe for years. Thankfully, because of the great men who have come before us, we aren’t like that. We have the freedoms we enjoy so much. Because of our Founding Fathers, we are the global powerhouse, the shining city on the hill, the beacon of hope and freedom for millions, that we are today.
When you’re drinking, grilling, and blowing up enough fireworks that NORAD detects your celebration as a missile launch, remember why we have the freedom to do so. Remember those who fought, those who fell, and those who had the balls to found this country. While this nation is by no means perfect, and we’ve had our flaws, there’s still no place I’d rather spend the rest of my life. Thankfully, because of the brave men of our Revolution, and the brave men and women of every generation that followed, all of us will be able to do so.