Today we Americans celebrate our Independence Day. For it was on this day, July 4th, 1776, that our forefathers, as a whole, declared to the British Monarchy that the individuals living in the 13 colonies of North America no longer wished to be British subjects. Instead, they wished to form their own country, ruled by their own laws and governed by their own hand. And on this day in 1776 that declaration was adopted by Congress.It is not a day where we celebrate our individual freedoms, or the day that we were liberated from British rule – that would come later, after much pain and sacrifice. And those that wished to continue to be British subjects left America, as was their right. And those that stayed embraced the new country, and it’s new form of government, which took a little time to develop. You see, the Constitution, had to be ratified by nine of the 13 states before it became binding. And that didn’t happen until New Hampshire ratified it on June 21, 1788.
The original Constitution isn’t a huge document, only seven articles describing how the government shall work. But the beauty of the Constitution is that these great men set forth a living document, allowing for modification over time so as not to conscribe it’s citizens to steadfast rules. And, over the following years, the first 10 “amendments” were added to this living document, referred to as “The Bill of Rights”, mostly detailing the safeguards of individual liberty and justice. Our flag – the Stars and Stripes. Our primary language – English. And our primary government – Democracy.
Now, with the exception of a small number of countries, most of the world’s countries today celebrate some form of independence day. The Mexicans independence from Spain. Canada’s independence from both France and England. Brazil’s from the Portuguese. India’s from the British – you get the picture. Countries whose citizens didn’t wish to be someone’s subjects, who wanted to set their own laws and own way of life, independent of others – like America.
And this independent America became a great country, because the people that founded it didn’t overburden it citizenry with laws. The States, aside from the laws of the Constitution, had the power to determine how their citizens would live and, if you didn’t like it, you moved. And if you didn’t like America, you left. But hardly any did.
And others from across the world saw what the “land of opportunity” offered, and were more than happy to support the Stars and Stripes, learn to speak English and exercise their rights as individuals under a democratic system. Sure, they respected their heritage – Dutch, German, Irish – a true “melting pot”, and America grew into who she is today.
As for personal independence, I believe that starts the day you stop depending on your parents to support you and begin to fully support yourself. My first Independence Day is August 23, 1975 – a little over 199 years after America’s. And I pledge allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, speak English and exercise my individual rights. I live in New Hampshire, where the term “Live Free or Die” is more than just a phrase, it’s a way of life. And it’s where I celebrated my second (and what I hope is) final Independence Day on October 18, 2009.
And I know if I don’t like it here, I can leave at any time. The laws only affect how you get in – the door’s always unlocked on the way out. Or I can stay and try to work within the system of government to change what I don’t like. Or, because of my freedom of speech (afforded by the Constitution) I can complain to anyone that’ll listen.
So Happy Independence Day America – you know, for a 240 year old lady, you’re still one hell of a gal…