Yesterday and today I’ve been offering a point/counterpoint with myself on my complicated feelings about Independence Day. Yesterday: a story of what I can’t stand about it. Today? A little less lengthy, a little less funny, a lot less snarky.
Today: Why Independence Day is great.
I’m a fan of holidays in general. I like having days that remind us to stop for a second and be grateful for things in our lives. To remind us that our lives are gifts, not obligations. So even when people scoff at Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark Holiday (and I’m not saying they’re wrong), I feel like, yeah, but a day marked for telling the people you care about how you feel can’t be an entirely negative thing (maybe you tell them by choice, or, if mandated, your entire 4th grade class – yes, young lady, including Jimmy, I don’t care that he never blinks).
And so while the execution of the holiday may often be less than graceful there are a things about celebrating independence that are important. Truly important.
The main thing I really like is the date of our Independence. On the 4th of July, 1776, the colonies declare their independence from England, after the war had begun, but far from when it ended. The war unofficially ends in 1781, and officially with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. But we don’t mark freedom with that date – the date we’re “granted” freedom and independence – we mark it with the moment we declare it to be true. All one needs to be free is to assert it. There may be a price, perhaps a terrible one, but that choice is always there. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The moment a slave decides he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall.” And a day to remind ourselves of that is a great thing (in this, or any country).
Also, like Veteran’s Day, or Memorial Day, something to remind ourselves that the status quo only exists through the actions of people – and that those people include ourselves in the present tense, be it as soldiers, politicians, in the streets, or the ballot box, at the podium or in the media – is important. The world is whatever we choose it to be. Every day that there’s good and bad in our world, it is because we have, to some degree, chosen it to be so. And if people are free, if people have liberty, then they can make anything happen.
It may not be quick, it may not be elegant, it may not be pretty, but it’s possible.
And so happy Independence Day to all my readers, be you American, English, Indian, South African, Indonesian, et cetera. The day may commemorate a moment in history, but the story of humanity isn’t dates. Not really. It’s ideas, it’s actions, it’s our wills. Every day we either choose our independence, or we forego it. Every day we choose what the world will be and we build it anew.
And a day to stop and remember that has to matter.