Independence Day My Arse

Today is not, as many seem to believe, the day of independence for the United States of America.

It is the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, ratified two days earlier by Congress. And, in fact, its contemporaries viewed it as little more than a justification for war against Britain, a list of grievances against King George, one not even distributed to the last state until two months later.

And yet Americans celebrate this day with fireworks, frenzied consumerism, bingeing--all those things that make America so wonderful.

It is interesting to consider the values that have led to a celebration upon the Fourth of July instead of, one would think, far more significant dates such as the ratification of the Constitution of the United States, or even the signing of the peace treaty between America and Britain that actually turned the English Civil War into the American Revolution (and at this point, it is unnecessary to note that the Revolution was not really a revolution...).

To Americans, the Declaration of Independence is significant, justifying Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, and many demonstrations and expressions of freedom (that are beginning to lose their importance to generations unaware of even their First Amendment rights). The Declaration is a very regional document; outside of the U.S., it has changed nothing (and surely Britain would insist upon this!). The Constitution, however, has influenced the creation of many other documents and even whole governments across the world; but it seems to be taken for granted.

In short, Americans should not be blamed for their lack of concern with the rest of the globe. It seems to be a mere continuation of a trend that the government, with its lack of activity to increase awareness of other probably more relevant dates and events, has done nothing to curb.

(I do, however, admit to a bit of prejudice against Thomas Jefferson, who authored that still respectable and very faded document.)

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