Happy Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July (Fourth of July), a national holiday in the United States that commemorates America’s independence from Great Britain.  The Fourth of July is associated with traditional American food fare like hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad, outdoor grilling, baseball, picnics, fireworks, and parades.  The date coincides with the Continental Congress’ signing of the Declaration of Independence.  We associate this day with the only two future presidents to sign the document, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, both of whom died on July 4th, 1826.  I guess you could say that was their independence day too!

John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail and declared his hopes for the national holiday:

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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Well, we may not be quite as religious about the holiday.  We’re more apt to shoot off fireworks and eat too much. Nevertheless, watch this highlight from the annual Capitol Fourth celebration in Washington, DC and tell me you don’t feel a little fired up.  I’ve been to several of these celebrations in Washington, since I lived in the nation’s capital for nine years.  This patriotic music can get my blood circulating and my skin full of goosebumps. Performed by country singer, Reba McIntire.

I make no apologies for loving my country.  It’s that love for country that makes me criticize it so often.  I believe we can always do better.  I am reminded of the words of one of my mentors, J. William Fulbright, who said, “In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.”  He wrote one of the most important critiques of the Vietnam War in his book, The Arrogance of Power, on which my book, The Arrogance of American Power, is based.

If America has a service to perform in the world, and I believe it has, it is in large part the service of its own example. In our excessive involvement in the affairs of other countries, we are not only living off our assets and denying our own people the proper enjoyment of their resources; we are also denying the world the example of a free society enjoying its freedom to the fullest. This is regrettable indeed for a nation that aspires to teach democracy to other nations, because, as Burke said, “Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.”

6 thoughts on “Happy Independence Day

  1. I believe America is a country that is good at making its people proud of their country and make them patriotic. When I lived in the U.S., I felt very patriotic and I was proud of living in America and felt as if I were American. When I thought why, it was because I would learn about the struggle to make America many times during the year. Of course on the 4th of July but also on Thanksgiving about the Pilgrims, on Memorial day in May and so on. On the other hand, Japan is terrible at doing this. I have never been patriotic or felt good about my country on any of Japan’s national holidays. The only thing I always think is that it’s a holiday. I guess it is because the people in Japan don’t really emphasize this and when it’s emphasized, there is a mood that makes you feel right-winged. I believe that having pride in your country is important and it should be more emphasized in Japan too.

  2. I think Japan’s independence from mainly America and the Allied powers after the war is on April 28. (The late Prime Minister Yoshida signed the peace treaty in San Francisco.) Most of the people don’t know this day or that the day is even a holiday. We have National Foundation Day and it’s a holiday but not Independence Day. I wonder why. National Foundation day is the day of Japan’s birth and then I think I could say Independence Day is the day of Japan’s rebirth. Sometime we say the Japanese are not very patriotic. I believe we love our country but because we don’t have a holiday like Independence Day and the time to think about love of our country, we consider ourselves not patriotic. After 3.11 we were united and try to help others but now the feelings we had in that moment are weakening. We still have so much to think about and face so many obstacles, so now we really do need to think about the country.

  3. Japanese are not so much patriotic as Americans are on their respective national birthdays. In my opinion, this phenomenon attributes to the difference in their formations. While America is able to clearly mark July 4th as its official beginning, Japan lacks historical evidence in its claim to have settled on February 11th. The day was chosen because the first Emperor Jinmu was enthroned on that day. However, the calculation used to translate Genka calendar into Gregorian calendar is based on the hypothesis that the oldest Japanese calendar available now was used further back then too. On top of that, the Emperor is attached to a suspicious mood for his possible identification with Kamuyamato Iwarehikonomikoto, a mythical hero who succeeded in unifying Japan. Basically what I mean is that Japan does not have a solid fact to back up its theory, but that may be changeable if only appropriate propagandas are applied.

  4. I really like to see the celebration of American Independence Day because it cannot be seen in Japan so often. American people come together and celebrate one big historical event. I think it is really appealing and it is also effective to express the one whole nation of America where a lot of immigrants come from all over the world. Americans like to confirm that they are in America and America IS here on this special day. I think Japanese do not care that Japan exists here now because we are the natives and Japanese have never moved for a really long time. America, on the other hand, is the nation which people from other places built and American people have their own backgrounds. The idea of one whole nation America could be vague if people do not gather together. I think this holiday is the common wealth of a nation which shows what is America and what a whole American nation keeps having.

  5. I miss the Independence Day parade and fireworks. This event reminds me of how much of a patriotic nation the United States is, sometimes too patriotic. 😛 However, I feel overall that it’s great to have love for your country. It gives out an atmosphere that your country is the best and can innovate to be even better. At times even immigrants become patriotic to the United States, which is one of the major reasons there are so many immigrants who decide to convert themselves to become American citizens.

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