Missed it by that much…

I’ve had plenty of people ask me what I’m doing for “the 4th” (it’s interesting how a little international travel can make you sensitive to how many people don’t celebrate the 4th of July 🙂 ). My only plan was to workout, sadly. I could barbeque, but I’d have to do vegan stuff too, and it’s hot, and… you know the drill.

Anyway, I started thinking about what this day meant to the founding fathers. After all, this was a time of great change and upheaval for the colonies – separating from Britain to become their own independent state was no small task. Doing some research, I found this quote, a letter written by John Adams to his wife, Abigail:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

Ah, so close! If any were “a betting man” in those days, I’m sure they would have bet on Adams. The presses would have already printed the headline – “Adams was right! It’s all about July 2!”

I’m pretty sure that July 2 passed this year, just as every other with the biggest thought on everyone’s mind, “I can’t wait until July 4!”

John Adams could be rolling in his grave. “America – how can you not know your history? Don’t you know that the declaration was only the documenting of what Congress toiled long and hard over and finalized 2 days earlier?” In reality, I don’t think he is rolling.

Sure, his statement was off, but the sentiment goes on. We do celebrate what was done and are not so caught up in the specific details. Freedom was declared, fought for and won. Yes, in the annals of history, it is important to know all the specifics so we know we are celebrating the right thing (after all, we could be part of Canada, right?).

Years ago, my son and I were in a play. As we were in rehearsal, there were things that we all thought were the funniest parts, and we just knew the audience would roll when we reached those parts. To our surprise, the audience found different things funny, emotional, etc. We could have focused all our attention on the fact that they missed what we found so funny. Better yet, we just joined with them in their enjoyment of the entire production.

Mistakes are tough, especially for Type-A’s like me. We don’t like anything that can come back to us as a wrong idea, bad turn, misstep or a slip in judgment. Even something simple as John’s declaration, in the wrong situation could have taken him out. Had he known that the entire world would be reading his personal letters to his wife (wow… kinda puts government wiretapping into perspective…) he might have felt the need to make good on his statement about July 2.

But it’s only a mistake because of our focus and lifestyle of judgment… our need to be declared “right”. While I do believe in right and wrong, I think much of life is much more colorful. We learn more by what doesn’t go our way than what does, if we are willing. I started this post thinking I knew enough of the history of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, only to find that I had to change the scope of it when I learned the real timeline. AAUGH! Mistake!… No, just learning and adapting. I could imagine John Adams looking down through history at all the July 4th celebrations and saying “well, I didn’t quite expect it to look like this, but that’s ok”.

It is interesting that this day, and this post is  really about freedom. Not getting caught up in things that others may put on us, as Great Britain did to the colonies, or even things we put on ourselves. The past is not to be a cage, but rather a springboard (yes, I am listening to myself…). In the end, it may be less about the details, and more about the audience who enjoys the entire play.

So celebrate the day, the occasion, and the new learning that comes from all of it. Celebrate freedom to make mistakes and be immediately free from  them. Celebrate that life is a constant colorful array of learned experiences, that allows us to look back on any situation and say “I didn’t expect it to look this way, but that’s ok”.

Notable Notables:

If you are interested in getting the full letter John wrote to his wife, you can find it here:

http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/aea/cfm/doc.cfm?id=L17760703jasecond

Alina Tugend puts pen to paper to show us that mistakes don’t have to be that bad

5 Replies to “Missed it by that much…”

  1. Hey bra,
    So I read this today and was wondering pretty much the same thing. All the history books that I have encountered over the years state a few different dates, but none being 7/4- The final draft of the D of I was approved on the 2nd, the final signatures weren’t on it until sometime in August.
    I was reading an interesting article by Henry Louis Gates and Blacks in the Battle of Gettysburg on Wednesday and noticed the main battle dates of July 1-3. I am now wondering if its possible that the colonials celebrated originally on the 2nd and then after the Battle at Gettysburg began to celebrate the 4th as a day of independence for ALL states? We all know that Gettysburg was the beginning of the end of the Civil War (even though that didn’t happen for another 2 years).
    Maybe there is some historical reference that we later generations are unaware, but until its discovered I guess I’ll just have to stand on the same side of the fence that you are on, when to celebrate?
    However, there is another option:
    Being a true American – as portrayed by the outside world- why not just make it a 3 day celebration, where we get off from work (paid!), bbq, go to the beach, hang out with family and friends, and not worry about the historical value. Did I mention go shopping to help boost the economy?
    Have a great one!

    Like

  2. What an interesting fact! (Who would’ve thought? – asks the non-history-oriented Hungarian girl :P) History is many times filled with holes, and off dates. I know the one here is so much so.
    Knowing some things about the 4th of July celebrations in the States though, I can only say I wish independence day celebrations here were more similar to those. But hey, I’ll just have to fly over and celebrate with you!

    Like

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