Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrate Independence!

I think it was sometime in grad school, as I got to know more foreigners, that how odd it is that we celebrate "July 4th" as if a date could be the name of a holiday. (Do you have July 4th in your country? Of course, but it isn't a holiday.) Similarly, it is always celebrated as the "birth of the United States" even though it was almost 13 years later, in March 1789, that the United States government as we know it came into existence. But we don't celebrate a "constitution day" holiday like some countries do, nor do we celebrate the ultimate event that truly sealed our existence as a nation (victory in the War of 1812), although we could have celebrated two others of almost equal importance yesterday (victory at Gettysburg in 1863) or today (victory at Vicksburg, also in 1863).

So "Independence Day", or "July 4th", does multiple duty as holidays go. Including, of course, the opportunity to set off illegal fireworks while watching state-sanctioned fireworks, watching NASCAR fireworks (last night's wrecks were spectacular) and the start of the Tour de France (also featuring spectacular wrecks this morning) in HD, and dining on the least healthy food this country has to offer.

I didn't appreciate the length of the Revolutionary War or the huge gap between it and the formation of our nation until I took a middle school government class. I had a crazy radical teacher who thought we should know the real truths of the history that was behind the sound-bite myths of political speech. So I know that the Revolution War began in 1775, before we declared our independence. I remember that blew the minds of some of my classmates, but it made sense that they might have wanted to win a few skirmishes before putting it all on the line.

Ditto for the wonderful detail that George Washington wasn't the first President of the United States. There were something like a dozen of them (aha, Wiki has both the full list starting in 1774 and the ten who headed the government), each serving as the "President" of the single house of the US Congress that (weakly) governed the confederation that was the United States for 8 years, starting in March 1781 even before the Yorktown victory, negotiated the treaty of Paris in 1783 that actually granted us our independence from Britain, and developed a Constitution that would dissolve that government in favor of a stronger one.

One wonders if the United States would have been reconquered by Great Britain in 1812 if not for that stronger federal government. Ditto for surviving the unpleasantness that came along 50 years later. Would there be Spanish speaking nations of Texas and California to our west and Florida to our south if we had stuck with a Confederation that ended up a part of the UK (like Canada) or split in half across the Mason-Dixon line?

PS -
Our menu includes chili dogs, watermelon, and beer from Vermont. While you digest that, check out the great pair of videos that Unbalanced Reaction put up today. And Dr. Crazy got to watch fireworks from the porch of her new house!


Sultan said...

'(victory in the War of 1812)'

This would be a different War of 1812 than the one we learn about in Canada.

not that we want a rematch.

Doctor Pion said...

Something involving Napoleon? Yeah, the British were a bit distracted by things happening on the continent.

But Canada also owes a lot to the outcome of that one between the US and England. The "status quo" result (returning land to Canada that the US captured, and vice versa) gave Canada territorial integrity. It might also have improved how England treated Canada....