Independence Day (JDS-5)
A Peek at the History of Independence Day
Every year on the 4th of July, we, ‘Muricans, are prone to celebrating what we call our day of independence, Independence Day, by becoming polyester-waving pyromaniacs and barebone nationalists in the vociferous, boisterous parades in the very streets of the good ol’ U.S. of darn pertty A.! The United States of America has experienced many renaissances since its official establishment in 1776, but why celebrate this specific date in time every year? And why is it entitled “Independence Day”? That I will cover right now. So get your “Make America Great Again” hat on and your 13-striped, 50-starred flags in hand as we take a nice stroll along the history of the U.S.’s most valued holiday.
Going back to the late 18th century in what was contemporaneously know as the “Thirteen Colonies”, the blue-collar and white-collar citizens of this land were being penetrated by an unwelcoming authority in the English, lead by King George III, taxing them to what the commonalty thought were unjust, for the England back in Europe certainly didn’t represent the religious freedom and political institutions the founders of these colonies sought, so they got in quite the revolt and had delegates and representatives from each state gather and create an adamant proposal toward the English. It took a few days, but the compromise was officially laminated and stapled by Congress on the notorious date of July 4th, 1776---that compromise was known as, none other, than the Declaration of Independence.
Since that very date a year later, bestowing great honor toward the Declaration of Independence as notably well as the colonists’ victory in the Revolutionary War, it has become a tradition to light fireworks, hold bonfires, and ring bells in celebration of such rigorous achievements. However, this annual tradition wasn’t a national holiday, as some may think, until about a century later in 1870, where the custom was officially inaugurated as a federal holiday by Congress.
Independence Day’s history is the epitome of every government/settlement/civilization that has ever rebelled (or tried to rebel) against an opposing force that looked to make its rival’s territory its own. However, it indubitably isn’t the first that has shown such a resilience, which I know for sure, as I take a class called “AP World History”---haven’t ya heard of it? It covers many kingdoms and empires and states that became the irresistible Hulk Hogan to their antagonist’s immovable André the Giant.
The first of which can be oriented in none other than post classical north Africa, which, at the time, had been dominated, first, by the Byzantine Empire, a Christianity-based dynasty, and, second, by a Muslim Empire that held many titles that complement their diverse lineage of rulers. The Muslim Empire colonized and converted the majority of what was formerly the Byzantine’s, but not quite all, as seen through two major pockets of Christianity: Nubia and Ethiopia. Nubia kept the Christian message alive via the remnants of the Coptics (Christian Egyptians), who had their teachings passed down the river of where they were originally settled after having fully translated the Gospels into their own language. The then independent Christian kingdom was able to stiffly combat Muslim penetration in their defenses, allowing them to flourish for over 400 years.
Ethiopia possesses a similar background, as it, like the Coptics, was of Byzantine territory. However, since the Muslims did their thing to north Africa, the kingdom was separated from the Byzantines, allowing some of that sweet essence of Christianity to dissolve. “No matter,” said the pagan and Jewish immigrants of Ethiopia, as they influenced them to retain their Christian ways. This did not bode well with the neighboring Muslims, as Ethiopia suffered their extortionate pressure for some time, but once a Portuguese expedition on the Red Sea occurred, that was able to spark a reconciliation with Ethiopia’s non-Christian predecessors, thus becoming an independent but isolated state.
The customs for Independence Day are quite simple and don’t hold too prodigious of intricate commemorations. However, there are a few meager but traditional festivities that some do on this particular day to pay homage to the Fourth and the U.S. as a nation with pride.
Every year in Philadelphia, the ancient but perhaps obsolete Liberty Bell is tapped (not rung) thirteen cumulative times. This number of thirteen is a blatant reference to the amount of colonies the U.S. was made up of at the time of its emancipation in 1776. Additionally, in relation to doing something a set amount of times for an indistinguishable rationale, it is an Independence Day prerequisite for a military base of every state to fire one round from a gun at noon. This practice is commonly known as the “salute to the union”, the “union” being the bind of the fifty states of the U.S.
Another tradition that is practiced not far from Philly---in New England---involves multiple local competitions of tower-building. These towers are intuitively assumed a rank and the constructor(s) a prize soon before they are to be vigorously set aflame a night before Independence Day. This activity apparently flourished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ultimately having the biggest bonfires ever recorded.
Considering how emphatic of a holiday Independence Day is, from its exemplifications of patriotism, history, and, at times, nation-wide controversy, it goes without saying that it has definitely made an impact on United Statesian culture. Starting all the way back to its origins whilst ruminating its history and attitude with its rivals, the Redcoats, it's insinuated that the citizens of the U.S. were unyielding yet earnest in what they believed in. The Declaration of Independence was directed toward King George III and his men, stating that they were zealous of having a land with proper representation and would be willing to go to war with them just to attain that desire, but the issuing was not a cry for battle but rather a formal proposition, as they were giving them a final peaceful warning of getting the hell off of what they believed was their land.
This sense of patriotism is often emulated through the people that contemporarily celebrate Independence Day. Obviously, the rebelliousness isn’t as apparent now, as the U.S. isn’t suffering any false representation, at the moment, but the tribute toward this type of “standing up for yourself” has been alive and viable for almost 250 years! (Now, some of the national pride is a bit forced and systematic for some, but had it been THAT blasé for them, it would be assumed that the holiday would be dropped entirely due to lack of participation.)
However, with every popular thing comes its inevitable controversy, which, in this case, has plagued the nation year by year. As many can infer, at the time of 1776 lived an active and colossal case of enslavement against black people, as they were seen as the inferior. This argument often begs the question, “Was everyone in the U.S. at this time truly free and independent with the white man?” Many see Independence Day as a shunning of the black community for this reason and, instead of celebrating it, eschew it.
As national holiday, here in the States, no matter how it is scrutinized, Independence Day is a historical phenomenon that elicits the grit and patriotism hidden deep or not-so-deep within just about every individual ‘Murican. The Fourth of July holds a capacious arsenal of history and is rightfully, in my own opinion, endowed reverence every year, be that celebrating on a Saturday in the park or while taking identity with your romantic partner as literal/figurative fireworks.