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I’ve landed in the USA and have been here three months. In doing this, I am surrounded by different sights, sounds, traditions and fragrances that remind me that I am in my home country. My home country celebrates the Fourth of July like a summer party that everyone is invited to. We, as a great big family will gather in parks and front yards to bar-b-que and drink lemonade (or other stuff) to celebrate the hottest holiday in American culture.
The Fourth, itself, is called Independence Day. It is really not the day that the Americans declared their Independence from the Mother Britain – this is a fact (as many others I love) that proves our nation is flawed in what we say is truth. Here are my “favorite” myths about the 4th of July:
- · The Fourth Of July is Independence Day – the day the US seceded from Great Britain.
A representative from the State of Virginia named Richard Henry Lee was the first to propose legislation to make it official: the colonies would notify England that this land was no longer theirs. Lee drafted a Resolution on the 7th of June 1776 and read it to the Second Continental Congress, which began:
Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
John Adams convinced the congress to allow Thomas Jefferson to compose an official document called “a Declaration.” Lee was in Virginia by the time Congress voted on and adopted the Declaration of Independence – on July 2, 1776. The Declaration of Independence was signed two days later by those founding fathers who were still there.
John Hancock was said to have signed it first – in a grand and dark signature that to this day is the American benchmark of all signatures.
- · The Founding Fathers believed that all men were created equal.
The declaration of Independence has a beautiful preamble:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The colonists were tired of being the second-class citizens that they were seen as in the eyes of England. They had no rights, other than the protection of the British Army and Navy. They wanted to govern themselves and knew they could do it without a sovereign.
What the land-owning Founding Fathers had was a voice that England would be forced to listen to. We are no different than you are – we are gentlemen ourselves.
Like most wealthy men of their time, the Founders were gentlemen in theory. Many of them owned slaves; many believed in the death penalty. It is important to remember that the founders were influenced by the culture and the time. Washington and Jefferson privately expressed distaste for slavery (Jefferson once called it an "execrable commerce"), but they also understood that it was part of the political and economic bedrock of the country they helped to create.
The life, liberty and pursuit of happiness they spoke of was for land-owning men. White men. Not women; not slaves; not foreigners.
It is a myth that the signers of the Declaration practiced what they were preaching to England.
- · The Fireworks on the Fourth are supposed to remind us of the bombs that lit up the sky in the Revolutionary War we eventually fought against England.
I love me some fireworks.
They are as American as apple pie on the Fourth of July. Still, the common myth that the fireworks are supposed to mimic bombs is probably one promoted by our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner.
Francis Scott Key wrote the poem “Defence of Fort McHenry" while on board a ship following the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria. He and another man were on an errand to secure the exchange of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes, an elderly and popular town doctor.
Because Key had supposedly overheard details of British plans to attack Baltimore, he was held prisoner as well. During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the battle for Fort McHenry complete with “bombs bursting in the air” – all the while observing the fort's smaller "storm flag" flying. Once the barrage had stopped, Key didn’t know how the battle had turned out until the next day. By dawn, the storm flag had been lowered and the larger flag had been raised.
Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort and wrote the immortal poem which has four stanzas (very few know more than the first) and later set to music and adopted as our national anthem.
In reality, Congress encouraged fireworks on the Fourth of July by authorizing a display on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia, a year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “At night there was a grand exhibition of fireworks, which began and concluded with thirteen rockets on the commons,” reads a journal from that year.
Another colorful display took place in Philadelphia on July 4, 1779: “In the evening a sett of brilliant fireworks were exhibited, particularly excellent rockets, which, after ascending to an amazing height in the air, burst, and displayed thirteen stars.”
- · Fourth of July is a Day to have fun with family and friends.
Okay, that’s not a myth. That one is true!! Mario and I just bought this house in the Arden Arcade area, very close to Cal Expo, where the City of Sacramento sets off the largest fireworks display in Northern California.
I have a feeling that we’ll break out our camping chairs (they still have Sudanese dust on them) and sit on our front lawn and watch the incredible display together – anyone want to join us??
It is a day that all of us flawed Americans (my international friends, you can HAVE the Fact that we are all flawed!) celebrate high treason, eat too much and encourage our children to blow things up.
I love it.
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