by Bob Sparrow
Ahhh, the 4th of July – warm weather, baseball games, parades, old glory flying, fireworks, barbecues and beer. Who doesn’t love that? The neighborhood I live in has made this day a very special one from the time our kids were very small. We’ve had parades where the kids decorated their bikes in red, white and blue streamers. We’d go to the local school grounds and taught the kids to play softball until the year that they taught us. We’d play horseshoes and go swimming. We’d barbecue burgers and hot dogs, have a few cold beers (not the kids!) and when it got dark we launched some fireworks.
We thought it was the perfect 4th of July, and it probably was, but it wasn’t the perfect ‘Independence Day’. Nary a word was spoken about the courage of George Washington, the eloquent writing of Thomas Jefferson, the legal leadership of John Adams, or the many talents of Benjamin Franklin. And with all the media we’re surrounded with today, I’m betting that you don’t hear much about these heroes this week as we prepare for what is suppose to be a celebration of what these, and many other courageous men and women, did to create this incredible country.
It’s curious how we’ve personified virtually every other holiday we celebrate with characters, from Father Time to Santa Claus, but we’ve actually taken the ‘characters’, our Founding Fathers, out of our Independence Day celebration and relegated it to just a date. It would be like instead of calling it Christmas, we’d just call it ’25th of December’, or instead of Easter we’d call it the ‘first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox’; OK, maybe we’d keep that one as Easter. Independence Day is many American’s favorite holiday, but it’s because of the aforementioned activities not because we spend much time recalling and recognizing the deeds of the truly amazing people who founded this nation.
I suspect part of the reason for our lack enthusiasm over celebrating as the victors of the Revolutionary War, is that we don’t see England as our enemy anymore. In fact, they are, arguably, our strongest ally, but back in the day, they were not so very nice to us and they were particularly pissed when we told them to take their taxes and tea bags and put them where the sun don’t shine.
King George III, king of England at the time of our revolution, was a particularly annoying bastard – you can read some of our grievances with him in the actual Declaration of Independence, which, by the way can be printed on two typewritten pages – sans signatures. Maybe this year, you could print it out and read it during the barbecue, preferably before ‘beer thirty’. You might also mention that our Founding Father’s were not only courageous, but were very intelligent and interesting people. To wit:
– George Washington, who is the only US president never to run for president, was elected twice by a unanimous decision of the Electoral College (He got every vote!) – popular vote was not used in those days. As president, he refused to be paid. But, he was also the richest president in history, with total assets in excess of $500 million in today’s dollars.
– Thomas Jefferson publicly opposed slavery, even though he owned slaves his entire adult life and had 5 children with his slave, Sally Hemings.
– John Adams died on the same day as his rival Thomas Jefferson on July 4th, 1826, the 50thanniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
– The multi-talented Benjamin Franklin could speak 6 languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Latin . . . and English
– Our first secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was shot and mortally wounded by Vice President Aaron Burr in one of the most famous duels in American history.
– Patrick Henry, an attorney, had many people who had nothing to do with a case visit his court hearings just to hear him speak; he was that good of a public speaker.
– Benedict Arnold, the famous traitor, was a General in both the American and British armies – some say at the same time.
I hope you all have a great 4th of July, but I also hope that you also make it a great ‘Independence Day’ and remember those who, nearly 240 years ago, gave us the freedoms that we so enjoy to this day.