Happy Independence Day! Although many now just call it the Fourth of July, I like to remember what the holiday’s really about: independence. Freedom!
Before the American Revolution, colonists held parades and fired cannons to celebrate the birthday of King George of England each June 4. But in 1776, when America declared its independence from England’s tyrannical rule, some celebrated by holding mock funerals for the bad George, years before the good George (Washington) became the first president of United States.
Washington and Abraham Lincoln are generally thought of as our two greatest presidents. Lincoln got us through the Civil War, saved the republic and ended slavery. Aside from his being a great general and our first president, did you know that Washington made two vital choices that set the stage for what America became and stood for ever since?
At one point, some in the military attempted to start our own monarchy and appoint Washington America’s king. He refused. After serving two terms as president, Washington was offered a third. He refused that as well.
Washington knew a truly free America did not want authoritarian rule. Compare him to some modern-day, power-hungry politicians who are clueless about America’s core values set forth in our Constitution.
The Constitution’s First Amendment beautifully captures the heart of what Americans have fought and died for ever since: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
In other words, freedom. You don’t have to practice the king’s religion. You can express your thoughts aloud, in print and elsewhere, and present your grievances with the nation’s leadership, without fear. That’s what Independence Day is about, and what we celebrate on the Fourth.
So have a terrific, fun holiday! Enjoy a great barbecue, and the fireworks, and laugh and celebrate with family and friends. Hey, you even can have a few beers and make fun of President Donald Trump. Or Joe Biden. Or Bernie Sanders, or whomever you like. It’s a free country.
Long may it remain so.
Follow playwright Mike Vogel at @mikewrite7.