I have been very lite on producing blog posts lately, and my last podcast episode titled “Wit’s End” may be an indication of how I am too wrapped up in work and everyday life in the past few weeks that some of the political world matters just seem so trivial to me as of late.
For those who may not know me well, I take a deep pride in reflecting on history, and absolutely love American history, especially the period of the founding of the Nation and the Civil War era. Mind you I do not try to view these events in rose colored glasses, or unrealistically as to judge all those events by modern day standards and morality.
Independence Day has always been a significant, important day in my life. I grew up Mormon, a religion which extended even more gratitude for a Nation built on the concept of being free to practice ones religious beliefs. Because of that, it meant that Sunday School around the Fourth would more-so become a deep appreciation and history lesson in the founding fathers.
Part of me is having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that a church I have all but completely disassociated with planted such strong seeds of recognizing the value and remarkableness of America’s founding.
Another huge source of that appreciation was my family, through various forms of media, first and foremost namely a musical called 1776.
Yes, I said musical.
You see it’s here-a-LEE, there-a-LEE, everywhere a-LEE-a-LEE.
Is that silly? Probably, but even a quirky 70’s Musical telling of how the Colonies came to an agreement on the Declaration of Independence is not without its sincere and moving moments. That musical taught me (or at least planted the seeds that would soon be sparked with interest) so many different, actual things from the founding.
Things like the horror of war: A courier from General Washington is always bringing in dispatches to the Politicians. One evening while talking with the congressional custodian Andrew McNair, he sings a truly gripping song called Mama Look Sharp about a boy shot and wounded, his mother trying to find him before he dies for a last goodbye.
Things like the great struggle of the time period: Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and therein included a scathing review of slavery you can read here. 1776 actually includes this passage in a scene where delegate Edward Rutledge of South Carolina questions Jefferson’s meaning of the passage, and then sings a truly haunting song called Molasses To Rum, in which he more or less calls out hypocrisy over the issue of slavery, noting how the Northern colonies benefit from the slave trade.
Things like the insurmountable odds of the Revolutionary War: Periodically, Secretary Thomson reads dispatches from General George Washington. As we watch the congress bicker, fight and eventually agree on the Declaration of Independence, Washington sends his final dispatch, which reads: At this time, my troops consist entirely of Rhode Island militia, and Smallwood’s Marylanders, a total of five thousand troops to stand against… twenty-five thousand of the enemy. As I write these words, the enemy is plainly in sight beyond the river, and I begin to notice that many of us are lads under fifteen and old men, none of whom can truly be called soldiers. How it will end, only providence can direct. But dear God, what brave men… I shall lose… before this business… ends.
These are all truly powerful messages wrapped up in a goofy musical, but I also believes it pulls it back into a little more realism: the founders were men, breaking away from one of the largest reaching nations on earth, with little in terms of resource, fighting against the oppression of a King they believed became a tyrant.
Add in a little line from a film called The Patriot, and you can start to see where even more of my philosophy and appreciation of politics and American History comes in to play: Why should I trade one tyrant 3,000 miles away for 3,000 tyrants one mile away. An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as a King can.
It’s the Fourth of July, and I have no qualms about saying it: No, America is not perfect, nor was it ever. It’s founding was not some uphill battle, rather it was more like a mountain of severe impracticality. No founder was clean, pure, innocent or without flaw. They were human.
As we celebrate the birth of our Nation, let us return to the roots found in the Declaration of Independence:
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT, THAT ALL MEN (humanity) ARE CREATED EQUAL AND ENDOWED WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, INCLUDING LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. AND IN ORDER TO SECURE THOSE RIGHTS GOVERNMENTS ARE INSTITUTED AMONG MEN (humanity).
Happy Fourth of July…I’ll live by these words til the day I die.