An intellectual Independence DayDon’t get the wrong idea. There is nothing wrong with watching fireworks, cheering a parade or cooking up a hefty barbecue for family and friends around the Fourth of July. It’s tradition.
By: Dave Boe, Lake County News Chronicle
Don’t get the wrong idea. There is nothing wrong with watching fireworks, cheering a parade or cooking up a hefty barbecue for family and friends around the Fourth of July. It’s tradition.
Yet, the geek historian in some of us knows it only scratches the surface in understanding the significance of Independence Day and how it has inspired our country’s history. In that spirit here are a few suggestions that can turn one into an intellectual patriot.
Read the Declaration of Independence
When was the last time you read the Declaration of Independence? High school? Maybe college?
One can bet a set of George Washington’s dentures that most Americans haven’t read the entire text lately. Understandable. It doesn’t exactly read like a Nelson DeMille novel.
Still, it is undeniably, the United States’ first historically significant document. It deserves a thorough reading every now and then. The document doesn’t take long to get through, and readers can appreciate other parts of it that play second fiddle to the lines about holding truths to be self-evident and men being created equal (which had more credibility once the pesky line critical of the slave trade was axed from the text).
Some may be surprised that the declaration isn’t all just flowery text; about a third of it is a litany of complaints against then King of England, George III, the best being an amusingly shameful accusation that King George, “... has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
While not as profound as the beginning and end of the declaration, these bits of dramatic (and sometimes absurd) denouncements of poor George are the most entertaining part of the document.
While not noted for its music, this 1972 movie, based on the Broadway play of the same name, is a unique and entertaining look at the Second Continental Congress that ultimately passed the Declaration of Independence.
You heard right. A musical about the legislative deliberations of the United States Congress. But it works!
All the main characters are there: Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hancock, Lee, along with their collective wives. Even Caesar Rodney ambles in at the end to save the day.
They Sing. They dance. They declare independence. While the music is unmemorable (anyone remember “The Lees of Old Virginia” or “Molasses to Rum?”) the movie is a lively affair, with amusing performances and an overall good rendering of the events of that day, but without the merciless Indian savages.
While the movie 1776 (no relation) alludes to the bleak outlook of the colonists during that year, the book, written by David McCullough and published in 2005, concentrates on the downward spiral of military misfortune that befell General Washington’s ragtag army.
While military history isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the story of Washington’s frustrating attempts to save his army from the British juggernaut while senior subordinates intrigued behind his back is a study in what drives men to keep going in the face of disaster.
Ultimately, the reader better understands what exactly those members of Congress were committing themselves to when they signed the Declaration of Independence during that uncertain time.
Learn about flag etiquette
You may know the basics. The United States flag can be flown at half staff for respect or mourning, shouldn’t be flown at night unless illuminated, and should be faced while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
There’s more to it, though, which can be found in the United States Flag Code.
As a typical United States Code, it’s a dry read, but it does answer questions many of us ponder, such as when is the only time the flag can be flown upside down, or what is done to a flag when it’s too worn to be flown.
There is a lot to remember, but don’t worry. Even though the Flag Code is law, it’s not enforceable, so flag faux pas, even on July 4th, will be tolerated. Happy Independence Day!