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Friday, July 1, 2011

Light Up Those American Skies

The fourth of July has been the most important secular holiday in America since the 1870's. Independence Day is the birthday of the United States and the anniversary of the day on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

The Constitution provides the legal and governmental framework for the United States. It's assertion that "all Men are created equal" was put on paper but at that time only included the rich, white, landholding men. The writings of the Declaration were influenced by philosophers John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. Since all people are creatures of God, or nature, they should have natural rights that cannot be violated. It is a celebration in itself to fully appreciate the fact that now 200+ years later the privileges of equal rights include women and all other ethnic groups.

John Adams, one of the founders of our new nation, said, "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore." Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776.
The people of Philadelphia may have celebrated the event since 1776 but due to the ongoing war, slow communication and travel, it only became commonplace after the war of 1812. Congress didn't declare it a legal, public holiday until 1941.

John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826--the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

As Americans we are guaranteed the safety net of our rights as we enjoy the privilege of the freedom to express our opinions on any topic. It seems disrespectful the way people rant about our government leaders, all the while enjoying the comforts and excesses of this rich country. Though people from other parts of the world are very proud of their own birthplaces, our privileges must be enviable at times. America is like a candy store, we are free to have and do whatever we want. Of course, we are responsible for our decisions and pay the price for poor choices but still, those choices are our own to make. No one can force us to follow a certain religion, pursue an expected occupation, limit us from an education, or even whether or not to join the military. We can feel safe in our own homes, enjoy land ownership, and bask in all the availability of modern technology and information at our fingertips.

So enjoy your holiday weekend with the picnics, concerts, the beach, and of course the beautiful fireworks. But take the time to honor and remember those who worked and sacrificed for future generations and send them a silent prayer of gratitude.