THIS EDITORIAL is printed annually in The Daily Star just before July 4 in honor of Independence Day.
We love the fireworks, the barbecues, the day off from work, the patriotic speeches and the pride in our nation associated with Independence Day.
Mostly, we love our country. It’s just that some of us choose to express that love in ways that infuriate some of the rest of us. The sight of protest-marchers carrying banners criticizing the government sets some people off, which is actually kind of ironic when we consider that this is a nation born out of protest.
If it had not been for those embattled farmers who stood and fired the shot heard round the world, we’d all be speaking English today ... instead of American, which is a polyglot of so many different cultures.
Conversely, to many of those who rail against the government, the sight of Fourth of July celebrations replete with patriotic mouthings by politicians can be almost stomach-churning. But there is irony there, too. Had it not been for those who believe so strongly in the rightness of our national policy that they would fight and die for it, those who protest would not have the freedom to do so.
Thankfully, when it comes to politics, we have the independence to bicker, to grandstand, to call each other names — just like in 1776. Sometimes we forget that the Declaration of Independence wasn’t just something Thomas Jefferson scribbled down and then presented to a rubber-stamp Congress.
Jefferson, after painstaking effort, offered his “fair” copy to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on June 28, 1776. It wasn’t until July 2 that the 13 colonies agreed to declare their independence from Great Britain. That’s because the representatives had begun the long American tradition of independence by arguing over every little detail.
We celebrate the holiday on July 4 because that’s when Congress made independence official. It wasn’t until Aug. 2 that members began signing the document.
Not all of the discussions ended in a noble outcome. For instance, when the document was finally approved, anti-slavery passages had been expunged at the insistence of most of the Southern delegates.
Therein lies a lesson for us. We are a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and some of those people are going to be scoundrels.
This July Fourth, as we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, let us continue to celebrate that most fundamental of declarations of human liberty and independence — most-often erroneously attributed to Voltaire: “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.”