Independence Day marks the nation’s founding and the July 4, 1776, signing of the Declaration of Independence: a letter announcing the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain.
The Fourth has always been my most favorite holiday, not only because it comes the day after my birthday, but also because of its meaning. Patriotic themes will blare from marching bands, fireworks thunder the skies, and grills fill backyards' air with the sweet smell of cheeseburgers and hot dogs.
But the day is really about the commemoration of the great risks the Founders took to free the colonies from King George the Third’s “long train of abuses and usurpations.”
Independence Day gives us 24 hours to reconnect with these “truths self-evident.” But it is these same truths that we increasingly take for granted.
Favoring talking points, flashy rhetoric and barbed insults over equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we’ve grown too cozy with acrimony and polarization. The rain of negative campaign advertisements, the disproportionate influence of money on this year’s presidential election, the efforts to prevent certain peoples from voting, and the larger problem that half the population doesn’t vote take us far from the Founders’ intent.
The Declaration of Independence is in danger of becoming just a piece of paper on display at the National Archives.
Independence Day is about celebrating our shared beliefs under dazzling displays of the “rocket’s red glare.” Regardless of our positions on Obamacare, government regulation, social issues, or the debt limit, we’re not Donkeys and Elephants punching it out for feed, or Red and Blue States in the midst of a second civil war.
In the words of Patrick Henry, one of the Founding Fathers: we are “responsible for the greatest trust ever confided to a political society.”
Jamie Chandler is a political scientist at Hunter College in New York City.