We celebrate July 4th because that’s the date on the Declaration of Independence. John Adams thought we would celebrate July 2 because that’s the day the resolution passed. Memorized that in high school when I was sure nobody but my teacher cared. BTW I was right!
It’s the story, stupid!
The Fourth of July is about the national story. It’s easy to feel patriotic if you believe that America rejected the right of Great Britian to govern us without representation. That our Revolutionary War began with “the shot hear round the world.” That when we won our freedom, others followed. That we continue to be the oldest democracy, a beacon to the world.
Of course, like all stories, our national story has varying versions. Check out Joseph Brant, the Mohawk leader, who lead the loyalists against the American army. Or Frederick Douglas’s speech given July 5, 1852, which contains the poignant line: “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine,” referring to slavery.
And, like all stories, the national story has gotten better over time. Those first shots fired at sunrise April 19, 1775 at Lexington and Concord actually resulted in defeat. The American militia, poorly armed, lost both battles, “fell back” is the preferred term. It wasn’t until Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the Concord Hymn in 1837 that we began using the phrase, “the shot heard right the world,” in our national history. He wrote:
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard ’round the world.”
So why is Iran trying to blame us for the current demonstrations in Tehran’s streets? “The American Devil made us do it” is one way to tell the story, and if they can make enough people believe . . .. There’s a fine line between patriotism and propaganda. Don’t get me wrong, I love the American story and all the personal stories of my ancestors coming to this country that add to my version of the American story. Nothing wrong with patriotism as long as we realize, on some level, we’re choosing how we’re telling our story and choose wisely.