Call the hol­i­day what it re­ally is

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Did you ever fall for this old trivia ques­tion: “Do they have the Fourth of July in Eng­land?”

Of course they do. They also have the third and the fifth. They just don’t rec­og­nize it as one of the ul­ti­mate “it’s not me, it’s you” mo­ments in Western civ­i­liza­tion.

The na­tion’s big hol­i­day is com­ing up Mon­day, and would it harm any­one to call it by its proper name: In­de­pen­dence Day? Of course not. What’s more, it might give us a real ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what the hol­i­day is all about.

And dare we men­tion that July 4 is not even the cor­rect date? You can take John Adams’ word for it. “The sec­ond day of July, 1776, will be the most mem­o­rable epocha in the his­tory of Amer­ica,” Adams wrote in a let­ter to his wife, Abi­gail. That was on July 3, 1776.

So why do we cel­e­brate on July 4? Blame Congress, his­to­rian Pauline Maier tells us. “In 1777, Congress didn’t think of re­call­ing the event un­til it was too late to cel­e­brate the sec­ond, and the fourth be­came stan­dard,” she said.

John Adams, in later years to be­come our first vice pres­i­dent and sec­ond pres­i­dent, chose July 2 be­cause the Con­ti­nen­tal Congress voted for a Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence on that day, and no one had greater author­ity to make that call than he did. His “claim to share in the glory of in­de­pen­dence was well founded,” Maier said. “He did far more than Thomas Jefferson to bring Congress to the point of ap­prov­ing sep­a­ra­tion from Bri­tain.”

By July 4, mem­bers of the Con­ti­nen­tal Congress had only to ap­prove a fi­nal draft of the dec­la­ra­tion — and then scram­ble out of Philadel­phia be­fore be­ing felled by ei­ther the heat or the Bri­tish.

The first recorded use of the name “In­de­pen­dence Day” did not oc­cur un­til 1791, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral sources. In 1870, Congress made it an un­paid hol­i­day for fed­eral em­ploy­ees. Now, of course, it’s a full-blown hol­i­day, wor­thy of all the pomp and cir­cum­stance we can whip up, and all the fire­works we can en­joy.

Just to give you a healthy head start on plan­ning the long week­end ahead, here are some sched­uled fire­works dis­plays in our area:

• Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium, 11765 St. Li­nus Drive, will cel­e­brate with the 2016 Cel­e­brate Charles: A Fun-Filled Fourth Mon­day, July 4 in Wal­dorf. The event starts at 4:30 p.m. and fire­works will be­gin at 9:30 p.m.

• Fire­works at the Charles County Fair­grounds in La Plata re­turn this year with en­ter­tain­ment, food and more. Gates open at 5 p.m. Mon­day, July 4 with fire­works shortly af­ter dark.

• The Town of In­dian Head 4th of July Cel­e­bra­tion and Fire­works will also take place Mon­day, July 4 at 3:30 p.m.

• La Plata will host its In­de­pen­dence Day Wa­ter­melon Bash, Mon­day, July 4 from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on the grounds of the La Plata Town Hall, 305 Queen Anne Street.

In the midst of all the cook­outs, the fes­ti­vals and the fun, though, we should cer­tainly re­main aware of what the hol­i­day is all about in the first place. It’s the 240th an­niver­sary of when 56 pa­tri­ots signed the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, mu­tu­ally pledg­ing “to each other our lives, our for­tunes and our sa­cred honor.”

You’ll no­tice they didn’t sign the Dec­la­ra­tion of the Fourth.

So let’s drop the or­di­nal num­ber and call it what it is. Per­haps that would help us bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate those who put their lives on the line to se­cure the “un­alien­able rights” of life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness.

En­joy In­de­pen­dence Day.

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