Happy Birthday, America! Land of the free, because of the brave, and land that I love…amazing, feisty, diverse, mythical, broad and wide, beautiful, breath-taking…a country like no other. Of course, all countries can make that claim. Each is like no other. Each is unique, and each has positives and negatives. America is no different. But it is an amazing land, physically, and still a wonderful experiment in freedom and the exercise of self-governance.
I’m a bit of a history buff, albeit very selective in my interests. One of the periods that I especially love is the era of colonial America. That is a fascinating time in history, not only because of the events that occurred that most Americans are familiar with…the Revolutionary War, the political struggle for freedom, the establishment of a new nation…but also because as you learn about the everyday lives of people, you realize…they were really very much like us, in many ways. Except in all the ways they were so different. There’s a line in the movie “National Treasure,” when Nicolas Cage is quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and he concludes by saying that “people don’t talk that way any more.” Read the writings of the founding fathers, or other authors of that time, and you have to agree. People don’t talk that way any more. Those were serious men and women, and they lived through serious and perilous times. They used language in a way that most modern Americans could not even follow, and somehow, with all the odds in the world against them, claimed their independence and birthed a new age. Quite a feat.
One of my favorite movies is the musical 1776. Some of the music is a little hokey, but beyond the comic moments is a moving story of vision, division, loyalty, achievement and heroism. And watching it, I’m reminded that something we take for granted was really a miracle, on every level.
Happy parades, fireworks, hotdogs, apple pie! I’ll be enjoying a small town parade today, and seeing fireworks. And maybe sometime in the next few hours, on this middle-of-the-week holiday, I’ll pull out my dvd and remember how it all started. I’ll remember that the Declaration is more than just a historical document, that the Founding Fathers were real people with real disagreements and lives in the balance. And I’ll appreciate something that I rarely stop to think of: that I am free, and my freedom was inherited from people who lived centuries ago. But their gift is still giving, and Americans today are still the fortunate recipients of their gift.