July 4th is when the United States of America celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For most Americans Independence Day is the most important secular holiday of the year.
Of course, July 4th wasn’t the actual date of the signing – July 2nd was – but no matter. Of greater interest is the fact that the colonials were deeply divided on the independence issue, with perhaps a third supporting the British throne, another third indifferent, and the final third pushing for revolution. A deeply divided America is nothing new.
Not only is the date wrong, but the name is too. America wasn’t independent on that day or for years after – and wouldn’t have been but for French aid. Not the picture that the name “Independence Day” conjures for most Americans.
A better name is “Revolution Day”, for that is what began in 1776. These are perhaps the most famous words in America’s political history, and among the most revolutionary in world history:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Much less famous, yet reflecting yet another deep division that bedevils America to this day, is another, less generous statement in the Declaration:
[The King] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured 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.
Senator Mike Lee of Utah, recently noted that Mr. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric did not play well in a state dominated by a religious minority whose ancestors faced violent discrimination, such as exemplified by the infamous Missouri Executive Order Number 44 of 1838, issued by Gov. Lilburn Boggs, that said, in part:
The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace. . . .
Executive Order Number 44 was not officially rescinded until 1976, by then-Missouri Gov. Kit Bond.
Arizona’s beautiful Mormon Canyon has no bloody history that I know of. The name reflects the fact that Arizona, like Nevada and Idaho, has a long history of Mormon settlement.
I took this picture walking north on Brins Mesa trail at 705 AM on July 3rd, 2016. The edge of Brins Mesa is to the left, at an altitude of almost 5100 feet.
What I particularly liked was the sunshine lighting the left most peak. It reminded me of the oft-used “shining city on a hill” metaphor for American exceptionalism.
It is the nature of ideals that we often fail to live up to them. But it is important to try, and to continue to try, despite many failures. I wish all readers, American or not, a happy and peaceful July 4th.