Monday, 4 July 2011

Happy Fourth of July: Is It the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence You Celebrate?

In my Southern California childhood, the Fourth of July was a big holiday, right up there with Thanksgiving, not far behind Christimas. We were taught that it celebrated the birth of the greatest nation on the face of the earth, that the principles behind the founding of the United States of America were truly revolutionary and a model for the world to follow.

Now, having left the US several decades ago, I have considerable distance from the patriotic brouhaha, but I find I'm still marked by it. For example, I am very anti-monarchist and was enraged Saturday night to be hindered from crossing the street by William and Kate's motorcade at the end of the Royals visit to Montreal. I even made a few friends by saying very loudly, "Down with the Monarchy." Lee cringed at my obsteperousness, if not by the sentiment.

The question arises this morning, however: does this holiday commemorate the Declaration of Independence--the model for many revolutionary statements including that of in 1945 by Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, launching that long, drawn-out struggle out of colonialism--or actual founding of the USA and its far less inflamatory Constitution? I imagine that many celebrations today confuse the two, and the Tea Partiers ignore the difference. The Constitution as it has evolved over the decades, and it is a mistake to take the version written at the end of the 18th century as Gospel, as do the Tea Partiers.

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