I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I enjoy the Fourth of July because of the roots of the day, the Declaration of Independence, unique in the history of politics. I could wish that it would not have led to such a prolonged, horrible war, but that would be a useless wish.
Hostilities between the American colonies and Great Britain had already been brewing for decades, but had intensified in recent years. The ego impulses that had been stirred over this time makes the creation of the Declaration even more impressive, because of the nature, tone, and spirit of it. I will always believe that the authors and signers would have wished that the document itself would have been the end of war with Great Britain, but both sides knew what was coming.
In fact, not everyone in the colonies wanted issues to escalate to a point of separation; not everyone wanted conflict or independence. Still happens today, doesn’t it? Imposing democracy or liberty on those who have not asked for and do not want it is just as much an act of aggression as riding in as a conqueror. In the colonies, hostilities and ego responses multiplied, but the future was clearly crystallizing. However, to most of the civilized world at that point, America’s hope seemed futile. It wasn’t, though, and the realization of the hope of liberty is still celebrated today.
Another iconic element of the Fourth for me is the poem of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” which in the setting pre-dates the Declaration by a year. I love the flow of words, the poetic cadence that echoes the message, one of the few rhyming poems that I appreciate: “On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; / Hardly a man is now alive / Who remembers that famous day and year / Or the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” The last stanza, partly: “A cry of defiance, and not of fear, / A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, / And a word that shall echo forevermore! / …the midnight message of Paul Revere.” I love the progression from the physical ride to the implied message: Liberty. Freedom from oppression of an unresponsive and hostile egomaniac and his supporters.
Which brings me to the fact that I don’t like to entertain: war was inevitable. I would like to believe that people acting from their hearts would be able to just walk away, but it doesn’t happen. Sometimes, when the heart has spoken and especially when there is a concert of hearts about a course of action that is motivated by love and common good, ego-driven responses make physical confrontation inevitable.
However, the words, spirit, and framework in which Jefferson framed the response and declarations about the relationship between Great Britain and America truly amaze me. The fact that such a disparate population over such a vast land mass could unanimously declare anything reveals that the “Unanimous declaration” was a Heart Document. Even though the war itself would reveal the egos of people in conflict, the document remains, having captured the motivation and driving force of that two million plus population. For the days of its production and adoption, a unique spirit prevailed, making America’s Declaration of Independence an expression of the guide of heart over ego.
Liberty had to be won because ego response made it so, and that is just a reality. Ben Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” Physical conflict would come. John Adams knew this, too, and attested to it in his letter to his wife on July 3, 1776: “I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and to support and defend these States…” This motivates me all the more to seek to help folks discover Self, hear their hearts, and move in love and unity where that is possible and walk away when honest hearts disagree, which happens. How much death, suffering, and destruction could be avoided?
Liberty is one of those inalienable rights of natural law from the creator of nature. And I will end this here, although so much more can be written. Again, I celebrate today not out of wild, blind nationalism, because I don’t have that and I don’t care for that egoic expression, but rather out of amazement and appreciation that the Declaration of Independence reveals that a government can act, however briefly, based on Heart. Possibilities!
So, I hope that I have the spirit that John Adams went on to share with his wife about what the memory of our Declaration should look like: “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and ILLUMINATIONS!”
Cue the fireworks!!