Organic learning moments are so rare. When available, it is critical to capitalize on the natural opportunity to teach a child something without it seeming contrived, forced, or having been done as a reaction to some act of malfeasance. This is my son’s second Fourth of July, although considering that last year at this time he was approximately two-weeks old, for all practical purposes, it is his first real Fourth of July. Since my son is just barely more than one-year-old, will retain virtually nothing I teach him, and has the attention span of a squirrel with hyperactivity disorder, I present this learning moment as a timeless letter for him to enjoy for years to come, including every Fourth of July from here until I’m dead.
Today is the Fourth of July. It is a holiday celebrated by one nation to commemorate its greatness. On this day, droves of people will consume large quantities of alcohol, transport heavy food preparation equipment to parks and beaches, and attempt to acquire melanoma while they sit and eat amongst the company of friends, family, and copious amounts of American flags.
The Fourth of July is one of this great nation’s many excuses to take a day off of work and pass the time by eating, drinking, and engaging in whatever general foolishness is the order of the day. Basically it’s like every other American holiday. Cheers. The difference between the countless Hallmark holidays we as a nation celebrate and the Fourth of July is that in general, most people are under the impression that the Fourth of July carries some type of historical meaning. Now, although the vast quantity of people are blind to any historical tradition and simply use the day to not work and get heavily intoxicated, there is a decent percentage of society that has remembered that this day is one of history, not just the normal American holiday debauchery.
However, the history that people celebrate is very often the wrong one and yet nobody really cares, because the ultimate goal of any holiday gathering is to get inebriated and consume way too much of whatever holiday fare is being cooked. This particular day is even more special because Americans like to shoot colorful fire in the air and scream.
The Fourth of July is the day America celebrates its independence from Great Britain. However, this really isn’t accurate because although the resolution of independence was closed in Congress on July 2nd, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed until early August. Truthfully, most colonies had autonomously declared their independence more than a month before the Congressional resolution. Even John Adams (historical guy) believed that Americans would celebrate July 2nd as the day of independence. Over time, Americans adopted July 4th as the celebratory date because it was the date that the Congressional resolution was first published. Even our forefathers were media whores who believed whatever they read. Kind of makes you feel all warm inside and connected to the past.
Even with independence declared and Congress united, the Revolutionary War still continued for another 7 years. You see, son, declaring something doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I can declare lots of things and your mother will surely decide to play the role of the British and curtail my freedom. Americans had to support their independence with force and it really wasn’t until 1783 that all European intervention was vanquished. Even then, the America of 1783 was not the America of today, only comprising the land from the Mississippi River to the East Coast and it didn’t even include Florida. So everyone celebrating their Fourth of July in Miami beach technically are celebrating erroneously.
As we see all around us in our postmodern world, Americans celebrate the wrong day for reasons they cannot even begin to understand. Moreover, they decorate the landscape with American flags, not really even knowing why. Far too often we stand in line and follow the chanting without the words even being audible.
The truth, however, is that if it weren’t for partisan politics, the Fourth of July might not even be that big of a deal. It wasn’t until after the war of 1812 and the Federalist/Democratic-Republican divisions that the actual document itself became a torch by which the Democratic-Republicans would become the predominant political party. John Adams (same historical guy from earlier) believed that Americans seemed uninterested in the past and used the pseudo-date of July Fourth and the Declaration to solidify the Democratic-Republican Party. If only John Adams could visit 2014 and see how interested Americans are in the past now. We’ve become a truly impressive group of citizens for all the wrong reasons.
So happy Fourth of July, son. I truly hope we can get you out of this loathsome nation before you’re old enough to learn all these fictions in America’s wonderful public school system. But that’s a letter for another time.