Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independence Day

We as Americans celebrate our freedom on July 4th. But is that the true date of our independence? The Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2nd. It was dated the 4th, but John Adams was quoted saying that the 2nd of July would go down in history and should be celebrated with fireworks. Well, that didn't work out. Another kicker is the document wasn't even fully signed until August 2nd! Does this really matter to us in America now? No, not really, and it really shouldn't matter too much. It's just a date, but it's interesting nonetheless.
What's important is that our forefathers decided to rebel against the British and sign the Declaration of Independence, largely written by Thomas Jefferson, but with a little help from others. Why did we want independence? A quick synopsis would be that the British were unfair and had performed atrocities against the colonies. The atrocities were mainly to do with small skirmishes and heavy taxes on paper, tea, and other items the colonist depended on. The tax on tea went up and down actually. Many people believe that the Boston Tea Party happened because the British had raised taxes on tea, and the Bostonites didn't like that. The British had, but then lowered them drastically. Lowering the tax upset the people of Boston. Why? The tea that the British brought in was the good stuff. They taxed it heavily on the colonist, which the colonist didn't like, but it lead to smuggling of tea. All of a sudden, people in America could get tea for cheap instead of paying outrageous prices for British tea. The British, realizing that smuggling was going on, decided to drastically lower the price of imported tea, so much that it was cheaper than the smuggled tea the people of the colonies sold to each other. This outraged many who saw this as the British messing with the American colonist. Never mind that they had tea at a smaller price. Therefore, a bunch of patriots dressed up as Indians and threw millions of dollars of tea into the ocean that were waiting to be unloaded.

The British, on top of taxing the colonist and messing with the American's seeming hatred of market competition(think of it as a 18th century version of the "Buy American" campaign), also demanded that colonist let them stay in their houses. This is now the third amendment to the constitution, stating that in peacetime, soldiers cannot quarter a house unless they have the owner's consent. This was all too much for many colonist. Many in big cities, especially Boston, protested and harassed the British. But, many of the colonist were still loyal to the King of England. It is a common misconception that every colonist back then wanted freedom from the British. So, not only did the patriots have the British to watch out for, but seemingly their neighbors.
We of course won our freedom from Britain after eight long years, making it the third longest war in American history, barely losing to the Vietnam War(64-75), and the longest war which is our current war in Afghanistan(01-present). I won't go in detail of the Revolutionary War, but ask a few questions about our independence.
I asked several co-workers and other friends what they associated with July 4th. I got a lot of answers that had to do with cook-outs, fireworks, friends and family. Others said redcoats, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and war. Both sections are legitimate responses. With new generations, our perspective on events changes a little bit. Having a cookout, having drinks and other things we do on the fourth are much more current. Fireworks have been used to celebrate since the year after independence. The question is, do we as Americans really think about the Revolution against the British on the fourth? Is the fourth of July an excuse to shoot off explosives and get wasted? The fourth though, is not just a celebration of our freedom from the British. It is a celebration of the American spirit. We have memorial day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, and I believe that the Fourth also should serve that purpose, though everyday we should thank our ancestors for their contributions. America went against huge odds to win it's freedom. Had it not been for Washington, France, and our familiarity with the landscape, we would have been decimated. Yes, I did mention France. We may poke fun at France for their lousy track record in military victories and being snooty, but the French are the reason we won the revolution and were again able to beat Britain to a stalemate in the War of 1812.
On the fourth, we must remember why we fought for our freedom, remember what makes this country so great, and why it's worth fighting for. While we have our cook outs and look at the pretty lights in the sky, let us not forget those who died in that long war for out freedom.

"We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!" OK, that may have been Bill Pullman's speech from the movie Independence Day. But he has a point. We are going to continue to live on no matter what enemy we face, whether it is the British or terrorists. America is a young country, but it is a strong country that does know how to fight.

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