As we gather together on this most important of days, I want to impart a little wisdom to everyone. By “wisdom,” I mean a bunch of rambling dick jokes strung together with some highfalutin concepts, posing as something meaningful. We always hear people going on and on about the “true meaning of Christmas” around Christmastime–is it baby Jesus, is it being with family, is it goodwill toward man? No one can decide, but what we all agree on is that the holiday has more significance than traditional food, trees put indoors for weird reasons, and gaudily wrapped gifts that we won’t use within six months. I like to think of the Fourth of July as Summer Christmas. It’s easily the most important holiday within the hot months of the year, and it’s one that everyone in the country can agree focuses on something important: the foundation of the United States of America.
Most countries have some form of Independence Day. It’s interesting to scroll through the Wikipedia list of them to see how, when, and from whom various countries gained their independence. As you go along, you’ll notice a trend. The phrase “independence from [country]” is mostly commonly used. What this usually means is that there was likely a group rallying for independence within the country, and they appealed either to their colonial power or a higher body such as the UN for full independence, which was then granted. Other nations commemorate their independence by celebrating the day that their revolution ended (or began). If you look closely, you’ll see that the U.S.’s explanation is slightly different. See, we didn’t choose Cornwallis’ surrender or the enactment of the Constitution. Our independence day is in celebration of signing the Declaration of Independence.
Think about that for a second. Of all the days we could have chosen to celebrate our existence as a country, we didn’t choose the day we won the war or the day we established our government, but the day that we declared we were independent. They keyword there is “declared.” That fact in itself, I believe, is the true meaning of our independence. It hits right at the core of what we all agree is the heart of the American ideal. Whatever your political leanings, race, philosophical beliefs, or music preferences, we can all agree that America is great because it’s not about WHAT we are, but what we DECIDED we are. In the eyes of the world, America was no more independent the day after the Declaration was signed than we were the day before. But who gives a fuck about what the rest of the world thought? At that moment, the men we had chosen as our leaders had convened, debated, and come to the conclusion on everyone’s behalf that “these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”
The structure of the Declaration is truly a work of literary art. It opens with what the correct philosophy of government ought to be. It then moves into the section referred to by political scientists as the “Indictment,” wherein Tommy Jeffers throws down a diss track on the British Crown so furious that even Nas would have crawled into his Bugatti and never come out again in response. In the “Denunciation,” the colonies discuss their courses of action to rectify their issues with Britain. All of this culminates in the “Conclusion,” where, in very clear terms, the signers let Britain know, “bitch, it’s over.”
So when we all get together to wear the red, white, and blue, drink light beer, eat an unhealthy amount of meat, and blow shit up, we ought to take a few moments to remember why we’re doing it. We’re not celebrating that America happened; celebrating something just because it exists is pointless. We’re celebrating the ideals that our entire country is founded on. Yes, it’s freedom, justice, and equality, but I think we can all agree that we’re not perfect on any of those three values. Hell, it took us a century just for every citizen to gain the right to vote, let alone slavery, illegal wars, and unfair imprisonment. We’re still working on it. But that’s the point. After more than 200 years, WE ARE STILL WORKING ON IT. Other countries have scrapped their governments and constitutions, overthrown their leaders, or completely disappeared, yet here we are, operating under the same basic rules that we set out in the beginning.
On Friday, we don’t celebrate that we’re perfect. We celebrate that our country started with the decision to be free, and that in honor of that, we have continued to make that decision every year since.
Happy fucking birthday, USA.