I attended my community’s Fourth of July celebrations today, which were a lot of fun in a street fair kind of way. What I noticed, though, was that, aside from a plethora of red, white and blue, there was absolutely nothing about the American Revolution or the principles for which America stands. No one was dressed as George Washington, no one remembered the Minute Men, there was no mention of the Declaration of Independence. It was, in a very nice, community way, just another day to party. At the home front, neither of my elementary school age children had any idea what the Fourth commemorated, and both needed quick history lesson.
On the positive side, nothing negative occurred, although there were a handful of people festooned with signs saying “Peace can’t wait ’til 2008.” While I understand the literal words, I really wonder if these people have any idea that you can’t have “peace” if one side has no terms other than the complete take over of the world. Put another way, the peace our enemies demand, and the peace our anti-War activists apparently crave with their calls for unilateral surrender, is peace in accord with the Roman model — “they make a desert and call it peace.” (Actually, Tacitus’ full quotation, which I had never heard, is even more apt: Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant, or “To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.”)
It turns out that I should count myself fortunate that it wasn’t worse. Apparently I insulated myself by avoiding the opinion pages at our major news publications. Here’s what Charlotte Hays, writing at the Independent Women’s Forum, has to say about the 4th Estate and the 4th:
I can’t help noticing on the Fourth what celebratory conventions rule at a major metropolitan daily. Let’s see: In the Style section, there was a story on George Washington as a slaveholder, as discovered by archeologists (“Plain as Dirt: History without Gimmickry”). On the editorial page, Columbia University law prof writes about the Declaration of Independence (“A Declaration the President Ignores”). (“The tragedy of the post-Sept. 11 American assault on the laws of war is that it seems to have been not only shameful but self-defeating”). For Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter, the Fourth is about loving America warts and all. The warts are big as warthogs. (“The war that ended slavery, it turned out, did not end oppression.) That’s about as good as it gets.
The Captain, incidentally, did a very nice celebration of America and Americans:
Today we celebrate the birth of our nation, as conceived by a group of men in a Pennsylvania hall who many considered at the time as traitors. They dared to imagine a nation whose leaders would not be derived from notions of royalty nor from the power of arms, but chosen by free people as leaders accountable to the populace. They took the ethereal notions that sprang from the Enlightenment and dared to make them a reality — hoping that this radical experiment would take root in the North American continent, but having no clue that it would become a shining beacon for the entire world over the next two centuries.
We have been far from perfect, but we have recognized our failures and prevailed over them in the fullness of time. Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others — and we have been the model for that, for better and worse. America has been a beacon of hope for the world for centuries, not just because of the words in our Declaration and Constitution, but because we as a people try our best to live up to them.