If you think that July 4th is about something other than secession, then you’ve probably had one beer too many or are suffering from acute hot dog poisoning. Either way, this is a good time of the year to reflect on the true meaning of what should be celebrated on July 4th.
July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day. It is not Second Memorial Day, Pre-Veterans Day, Lather Over Lincoln Day, Yet Another Flag Day, National The Federal Government Can Do No Wrong Day, or Remember When We Actually Had A Constitution Day. Days celebrating independence are common. Texas has one. For non-Texans, it’s on March 2nd. Dozens of countries around the world have them. In every instance, they are to commemorate the anniversary of their country’s separation from another union or country, and taking their place as a nation among nations.
Yet here in the good ol’ American Union, the real meaning of the holiday is steadfastly avoided. Even the name “Independence Day” has been systematically replaced with the exceedingly plain and generic “Fourth of July”. Any discussion of the roots of the holiday and its modern day political implications is met with blank stares that scream, “shut up and eat your hot dog.”
If, however, people would take a moment and read the first paragraph of the document which spurred the creation of this holiday, it could deepen the significance of the day and spark healthy conversations over our current relationship within the Federal union.
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
It is abundantly clear that the men who drafted and signed this document believed wholeheartedly in the right of a people to separate from a larger political body and assert their independence. In many instances, those same men who signed this declaration fought and died for the choice that they made and, at a fundamental level, for that choice to be made in the first place.
Lest there are those confused about what happened because of this declaration, I feel I should draw some specific attention to the final paragraph. Spoiler alert – it’s secession.
“That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
It is also important to note that while they declared their independence in a single document, they didn’t do it as one body. Instead, in each and every instance in the document, they refer to themselves as “independent states”. Never do they refer to themselves as one, single independent state. They go on further to assert that each of the 13 States are equals with the “State of Great Britain”.
Which brings me to a point that gets lost too often in this declaration. Great Britain is referred to as a “State”. No one would argue that it is, in fact, a nation-state. Texas, and the other 49, are also called “States”. For some reason, this fact gets lost on people who claim that States of the American union are nothing more than administrative subdivisions of the all-powerful Federal government.
July the 4th is Independence Day. It is the commemoration of the day when 13 colonies showed that they had the courage to make a difficult decision. It celebrates the day that representatives from those 13 colonies acted on their belief that they were better off out of Great Britain than in. It memorializes the sacrifices made for the principle that the people had the absolute right to determine their own political destiny.
While you’re choking down your hot dog, waving your flag, and lighting fireworks, take some time to reflect on what it is you are actually celebrating. If you are celebrating the 4th of July as merely a day to “fly the colors” and not go to work, then, by all means, turn your back on the Founding Fathers and enjoy your hot dog.
However, if you are truly celebrating “Independence Day”, then remember what it was truly about: fed up with an overbearing and overreaching government, which trampled on their rights, and was so disconnected that it no longer could serve them, people in 13 individual colonies declared their political, economic, and cultural separation and asserted their sovereignty as 13 separate, individual, distinct, and independent nation-states.
Anyone who says that Texans cannot make this same decision in our day and age is likely celebrating the former rather than the latter.