Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Holy Shit, Independence Day!

Fireworks at the Washington Monument

July 4th is the day when Americans come together and, according to The Simpsons, "Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it." We celebrate it on the 4th of July because we apparently don't really know what independence means.

Is it the moment the treaty is signed that ends the Revolution in our favor?
Signing of the Treaty of Paris, 1783
You can almost smell their haughty reluctance as they sign away the colonies.

Certainly not! That's September 3rd, 1783. That's a good seven years after we claim our country was born, and as far as we're concerned, September 3rd this year is just another Tuesday

Of course, we all know that July 4th, 1776 was when America voted for Independence. That's the moment, right? That's when we decided that this whole Revolutionary War was for keepsies, and screw the British. Because before that, many of the founding fathers actually wanted representation rather than full independence.

Well, not quite. I mean, that's all true, except that the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence on July 2nd (which is the date John Adams wanted as Independence Day). Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the document that would officially announce the decision, and on July 4th, he presented one of several drafts to the Congress, who chose it for its florid prose and its proclamation that all men were created equal.
Then everyone signed it and had a beer and shot fireworks.

HA! Right. First of all, they didn't finish signing it until November. Second, remember that thing called slavery? That was still around in America back then, and some people were mighty uncomfortable about that "equality" bit in the draft. So why did they unanimously vote to adopt it?

Because it was fucking hot outside, and there were so many goddamned flies and mosquitoes that everyone wanted to get this freedom thing over with and go home. So after much bickering about who gets what kind of freedom, the less progressive delegates finally just gave up and saved their racism for the Articles of Confederation and Constitution, where they would find a way to both legally define human beings as sub-human and count them as population for the purposes of representation.
Slaves Waiting for Sale
Which was just...super uncool.

But still. There it was.

Thomas Jefferson
This is a big deal.

 "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." One of the most important written phrases in the history of language, and certainly one of the defining phrases of the past 250 years. It's been used as a rallying cry for social progress by everyone from freedom fighters to the civil rights and gay rights movements.

It's an immortal declaration, and at it's core it means that nothing, not even the majority rule of a democracy, can take away your inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It means that no form of government has the right to take those things away from you, and if they try, "it is [your] right, it is [your] duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for [your] future security."

And but for the heat and some flies, it may have ended up in an abandoned draft.

Holy shit.

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