Most Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, but many don’t really know why. Ask any kid, and almost any adult, and the answer will be, “It’s the Fourth of July.”
Then we should celebrate the third of July. After all, it is the third of July.
Think of all the major holidays — Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day. The reason for the holiday is written right into the name.
There is probably no official reason why we call Independence Day the Fourth of July or the Fourth. Maybe it’s because the Fourth is quick to say and the Fourth of July has more zing than Independence Day.
Well if it’s about freedom, a kid might ask, then why aren’t we free to light fireworks? Good question. The answer is that your neighbors are afraid you are going burn down their homes. The good news is that you have the freedom to work things out with the neighbors. Maybe you can find a way to ensure the safety of their homes.
But it’s not freedom that we celebrate on the Fourth of July. It’s not independence either. It’s liberty.
There is not much difference in those three words. Some people think there is no difference. But there is some, and that’s why the English language has all three.
It took the founding fathers four months to write the Constitution. They argued about everything, including the meanings of words and their appropriateness.
Eventually, they settled on liberty as pertaining to man. They assigned independence to nations and freedom more to nations than to man.
You recited the Preamble to the Constitution in school and really didn’t know why. You did it because your teacher said so. Here, read it again:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity (descendants) is the phrase you want to understand.
The revolutionary war, which ended six years before the Constitutional Convention, was fought to force U.S. independence from England. England would not recognize man’s liberty.
So like most men in most wars, George Washington’s Army didn’t really understand the end result for which they were fighting. They knew only that they wanted to be rid of the king.
Thankfully, when the war was ended and several men of that day asked Washington to be king, he refused, saying that was not the reason he’d fought the war.
It took until Sept. 17, 1787 for the founders to decide why American soldiers died fighting England. It was the liberty of man. They hadn’t died in vain.
A 4-ear-old kid running through Disneyland is free to do as he wishes. He has no concept of liberty or that men and women graced with liberty did all that. Thankfully, one man with the liberty to think for himself conceptualized the Magic Kingdom.
That’s what the U.S. is, a magic kingdom with liberty as king. Tonight at Disneyland, 4-year-olds will marvel at the beauty and grandeur of fireworks. Older folks who understand the meaning of liberty will reflect on the beauty and grandeur of America at the same show.
They will honor the men who paid for it with their lives and commemorate the Fourth of July, 1776, when Americans declared the independence that was needed to secure the liberty of man.