It’s July 4th. Many of us in the United States are taking the day off from whatever our occupation. We will generally be spending time with family and/or friends. Food will be a big part of the day for many. Fire season may prevent this for some but fireworks are traditionally part of the experience. If you ask people what today is the answers will vary. Some will tell you it is the Fourth of July. Surely we are not simply celebrating a random date on the calendar. Others will say it is Independence Day. (My son just called it Parade Day.) What independence are we celebrating?
I know some people who will complain that those who celebrate the 4th of July are failing to see what we are supposed to be celebrating – they insist that it should be called Independence Day. Personally I like calling it Independence Day but I don’t think that what name a person attaches to the festivities is a reliable indicator of how well they remember the original purpose of the celebration.
This morning as I try to get prepared for all the running around with seven children (hoping that with sufficient preparation we can experience real enjoyment rather than hyper exhaustion) I began to wonder, do we have reason to celebrate anymore?
I know the reason that this day began to be celebrated was as a commemoration of the birth of American independence. The date corresponds to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the celebration rightfully encompasses the creation of the United States Constitution and the successful outcome of the American War of Independence. I understand the significance of these things and the purpose for holding them in remembrance. The question in my head is, do we have any independence today worth celebrating?
Some will argue that our continued recognition as a sovereign nation warrants the celebration – I’m not sure that’s enough reason for all this activity. Most of what passes for reasons behind this celebration amount to platitudes about the United States being the greatest nation on the earth. If this is supposed to be about independence I wonder, do we, even as citizens of the United States, still have any independence worth celebrating?
We live in a nation and a society that has integrated every aspect of our lives with others in the name of justice (social justice, racial justice, climate justice, you name it) and in the process has regulated every aspect of our lives. I can’t build a house unless the city deeps the design acceptable – not simply for safety but for other more arbitrary criteria like total height of the structure. In some places you can’t even put up a fence without the approval of your neighbors on what kind of fence you install on your own property.
We have given up our privacy in exchange for security theater as a condition of traveling on the airlines and we hear rumblings about similar intrusions being contemplated for other means of travel. Not only that but now our privacy may be invaded even if we stay within the walls of our own houses.
Among the recent regulations we have imposed in this nation is that we must acquire health insurance that meets the approval of our government or pay a penalty if we don’t want whatever the bureaucrats define as sufficient. If that weren’t enough, the majority of the population feels that the only way they can afford health insurance is through the good graces of an employer (which is why we now require employers to provide this benefit). This means that the majority of our people are dependent on the fortunes and preferences of their employer not only for their livelihood but also to meet the requirement of having health insurance.
This is why I am wondering whether we have any independence worth celebrating. Sure we live in a nation that still has the largest economy in the world and the largest military in the world, but at what point should we stop celebrating the founding of the Roman Empire (or our modern equivalent) and start considering whether the ideals that brought about the founding are still in place to preserve it for another generation?