July 4. Independence Day. Our national holiday commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Our national holy day celebrating the consecration of freedom as a sacred value.
Briefly recalling the story…
The people of the 13 colonies had grown restless, rebellious about paying taxes to England without benefit of representation in the English Parliament. The First Continental Congress, although unhappy with England, did not declare war. However, British troops marching on Concord, Massachusetts, Paul Revere’s stirring alarm, “The British are coming”, and the subsequent battles of Lexington and Concord with “the shot heard ‘round the world” signaled the war’s unofficial commencement. The Second Continental Congress, unable to resolve the conflict with England, formed a declaration draft committee of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman. At an initial tally, nine colonies were in favor, two opposed, one undecided, and one abstained.
Now, 240 years later, we cannot know fully the hope and despair our founding forebears faced in reaching their momentous decision. I am glad they decided! Though my joy is subdued for honesty compels the confession that the Declaration’s bold pronouncement “all men are created equal” included neither all men nor all people.
Nevertheless, it is a common human experience to be caught in the crucible of historic events with which every era is laden (indeed, overladen!). In our time, among many, contentious electoral politics, ever-widening economic gaps between the poor and rich, renewed and heightened racial tensions, and the threat and reality of international and homegrown terrorism. In this, I see parallels between America at its founding and now.