The 4th is now over. We are all sated, filled with hot dogs, picking corn-on-the-cob out of our teeth, and remembering the glorious sight of darkened skies lit up with the blaze of fireworks and children laughing as photographs are taken of the spectacle.
But there is probably one tradition you overlooked.
The 4th of July was originally intended as the day people gathered to hear the reading of the document, which was, effectively, the mission statement for governance for 13 very different colonies.
The Battle of Lexington Concord had occurred April 19, 1775. The war had already begun in 1776. It ended formally with the Treaty of Paris Sept. 3, 1783.
We celebrate on the 4th, forgetting how the world looked to them, July 4, 1776.
The prospects for freedom were dark when Jefferson penned the words. War against the greatest power on earth, the British Empire, was deemed to be a lost cause, an impossible battle for untrained farmers. Hardened, professional soldiers were stationed in various parts of their homeland.
The Declaration of Independence, written in short, and precise language, is still admired for its elegance, power and truth.
It was approved by men who understood the reality they faced. They signed, accepting the consequences of their actions.
In towns across America, tiny and large, people gathered to listen as the news arrived. The Declaration of Independence was read in its entirety. Silence prevailed as the words rang out. These were people whose lives were often harsh. They faced war with no illusions. No end was in sight. The task facing them was far more daunting than what faces us today.
The Declaration defined the mission which brought people together, willing to work, fight or die, as needed. They were people used to governing themselves. Many dreamed of justice and freedom for everyone. We still hold this vision today; a people who truly govern themselves locally.
After the Declaration was passed on July 2nd and read in Philadelphia on the 4th, it took a long time for copies to be transported and read throughout the colonies, now each a sovereign state.
July 4th is one day. Read the Declaration often. Though our oppressor is no longer located in Buckingham Palace, the mission enunciated in this, the foundation of our government, remains to be realized.
Read it carefully. Consider your actions in the months to come. Choose wisely.