My stomach turns every Fourth of July — and not because I drink or eat too much. I’m fed up with hypocritical displays of patriotism from the overabundance of Americans who wouldn’t lift a finger to save our republic if we needed them.
Here’s how I expressed my disgust in The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit:
“Celebrating the 4th of July today has all the gravitas of a potato chip. Politicians wrap themselves in red, white, and blue — the tackier, the better — bob between hot dogs and hamburgers, and never miss a chance to crash a picnic and press potential voters’ flesh.
They relish riding and striding in parades — and speechifying. They intone the “self-evident truths” stated in the Declaration: “that all men [and they have to add, women “for all you lovely ladies,” they say with a smile doffing their straw hat] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
They bask in their bloviating.
For Mr. and Mrs. America, the Fourth is a welcome day off — a chance to hang out, literally and figuratively, eat too much, guzzle too much beer, and dodge the advances of overbearing politicians — and family members.
Put on the spot, the most they can probably tell you is that the Fourth is about independence. If they know there is a Declaration that goes along with it, they may be able to place it in 1776. But don’t embarrass them by asking what it says. If they’ve read it, they won’t remember much, if anything, beyond “life” and the other rights.
We’d still belong to the British, if the colonial revolutionaries had been the chicken-hawks we’ve become. In 1776, out of a population of about 2.4 million, a mere 56 brave men signed the Declaration of Independence, expressing their willingness to die for their radical words: “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive” of preserving the rights of the governed, “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Today, the Declaration is simply too hot a potato for Americans to handle, even in theory. You couldn’t get anyone to sign it, even as a symbolic gesture, knowing they wouldn’t face the noose. Pitifully few Americans even vote. Today, no elected officials would martyr themselves for representative government. And Mr. America is not about to abandon his “man cave” to save his mother-in-law from drowning, let alone rally ’round the Republic.
So, it’s time to cut through the bullshit. The Fourth of July should become a national day of penance for modern Americans’ indifference and inertia. The year 1776 was just the beginning of the early beginning of the revolution; colonists had been fighting since 1775.
Arguably, the end of the end wouldn’t come until 1783, or later. But, no matter when you date it, Americans have typically enjoyed their lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness when other people lost theirs.
Domestically, think Black Africans, Native Americans, and Mexicans; internationally, think Iran, Iraq, and Chile.
It’s a gift to have a Declaration of Independence, an ingratitude not to live by it.
Stephen L. Goldstein is the author of “The Dictionary of American Political Bullshit” and “Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned.” He lives in Fort Lauderdale.