The 4th of July use to be one of my favorite holidays when I was younger. Back in Findlay, the holiday was a community event. Some years there would be kid games and BBQ at Riverside Park. Along with the cascade of flags and a parade it was a fun time. Other years my Uncle Bob would have a shindig at his place which ended with shooting off the illegal fireworks he had bought during the year. Other years we would drive over to the Fort Findlay Mall parking lot and watch the firework show sponsored by the old Hill’s Department Store.
Much like the discount retailer, the show was low brow. It seemed they could only afford one fire tube so we would have to wait minutes for a shell to go up. Then more often than not it was dud – with the loud *BOOM* but no works. Later when I moved to Columbus, their Red White and Boom show blew me away and I knew I could never watch a show like the one at Hill’s again.
In recent years, my fondness for the 4th of July has diminished.
I think it has all to do with our principles and the lack of acting on those principles and in some cases doing the complete opposite.
My disillusionment started when learning that even though the founding fathers said at the start of the United States Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That it wasn’t until the mid 1960′s that a majority of people were finally treated as equal humans. But even today there are still segments of citizens, such as homosexual and atheists, who are still treated unequally.
While the United States Constitution had a Bill of Rights, those rights didn’t start being applied equally until after the Civil War and again there are segments of society who don’t enjoy all of those rights today.
Then there was the government supporting dictators in other countries as long as they were anti-communists. This was done with money or training death squads at US bases like the School of the Americas. In some cases the CIA would encourage and finance dissent groups who would overthrow an unfriendly leader like Iranian Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.
Then there was using the FBI to infiltrate and disrupt so-called dissent groups in the US under the COINTELPRO project from the 1950′s to the 1970′s. As stated in the article linked to here:
In the Final Report of the Select Committee COINTELPRO was castigated in no uncertain terms:
“Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that…the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”
The Church Committee documented a history of FBI directors’ using the agency for purposes of political repression as far back as World War I, through the 1920s, when they were charged with rounding up “anarchists and revolutionaries” for deportation, and then building from 1936 through 1976.
And today we have a President who doesn’t think twice to using warrantless wiretaps and inhumane interrogation techniques along with a a compliant Congress to further gut our basic principles of democracy and freedoms.
To me, the 4th of July is mere symbolism and until we return to the principles that led to the Declaration of Independence we are just a large body of hypocrisy.
In an illustration of the difference is this quote I heard during the recent HBO series John Adams. Adams is arguing for the passage of the resolution that would lead to our Declaration of Independence. He says to the Congress:
I believe sirs the hour has come… My judgement approves this measure and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life I am now ready to stake upon it. While I now live, let me have a country. A free country.
Adams and the other men gathered in Philadelphia during that hot summer were ready to die for the principles spelled out in the Declaration. King George III had already proclaimed that if the colonists insisted on their course of action they would be tried for treason and hanged.
Today I don’t see men or women with that kind of principle. Too many politicians are worried about being re-elected and too many people take their rights for granted or don’t think giving them up will harm them in the long run. It seems there are few if any people willing to stand up for what our country is suppose to stand for.
Until I see a return to our founding principles, the 4th of July means nothing other than a day off of work.