Every year during the 4th, Jim Pop’s ad was a pen and ink illustration of the Statue of Liberty. The only copy read: “Ever see a better picture of your home, ranch or vineyard?” It said so much so simply–like the Declaration of Independence, itself.
There was no sales copy. No listings. The message was simple. On this sacred Holiday everything takes a back seat to honoring those amazing (mostly) Dead White Males who gave us the life and freedom we share today. Jim Pop was definitely Old school.
In honor of that spirit, in the midst of grilling the burgers, downing the beers, playing ping pong, water skiing, shooting skeet and the dozen or so other activities that comprise this glorious weekend, it is appropriate each year, that we take a moment and focus on the great men and women who built this country from a wild eyed dream of equality into reality for almost all.
Every 4th, we have a tradition. In the early days, the kids couldn’t stand it, but they love it now. We ask them and their friends to read out loud to the grownups, the meat and potatoes section of the Declaration of Independence. Originally they rolled their eyes—“not again, Dad.” How embarrassing!
(However, what was once a “command performance” has turned into a status symbol as the grand children of the group, anxiously await the year they are old enough to get chosen to read).
Each year the kids rise to the occasion and there’s not a dry eye among the adults when they finish.
Once the applause dies down we go over again why the 4th is more than hot dogs, beer (oops, wine), and water sports. George III, colonization, and monarchies are a bit rough, but the bit about taxation without representation seems to sink in—especially now that several are in the workforce. (We’re still looking for the section on mandatory health insurance).
Kids can relate to the idea of participatory democracy. The idea of actually voting has a certain appeal to powerless kids. Tossing tea into harbors to register discontent struck a particularly responsive chord when they were teens.
As we remember, today, the 3,000 heroes who lost their lives on 9/11—and those brave boys and girls who deposed a vicious dictator and liberated the Iraqi people–forever planting the seeds of freedom far from our shores–to say nothing of those still fighting in Afghanistan–it is appropriate that we remember the 56 men who fixed their signatures to that historic document over 200 years ago.
Who knows how much they sacrificed? Which family members’ lives were lost? What price they paid in economic deprivation?
Why did they do it?
Actually, it’s quite simple: They did it because they (held)
“these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government become destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness….with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
It wasn’t just about self-interest. They saw a chance to make America the “World’s last best hope.” They bickered, but never wavered from the ultimate goal: That we are all equal before the law and entitled to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Who among us would have been willing to do that they did? To sacrifice what they sacrificed?
To the 56 – who literally signed their own death warrants, we will never forget. Ditto the 3,000 in the World Trade Center. To those who have given their last full measure in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those still in harm’s way today in those hostile forlorn countries: Our country tis of thee!