Weekend Wrinkle: The Day We Broke Away

Independence: freedom from outside control or support.

I like to read definitions in dictionaries and, since it’s almost July 4, I thought I’d reacquaint myself with the reason for the holiday.

It is important to remember that those brave (or crazy, depending on your viewpoint) colonists sought freedom from the tyrannical rule of a monarch, George III, and a Parliament that refused to allow them representation.

Basically, there was a whole bunch of British citizens who were sick and tired of being treated unfairly and having no say in how they were governed or taxed. Most didn’t want to totally break away from Britain but wanted their rights as citizens to be respected.

Unfortunately, King George III pretty much saw the New World as an income stream and, since he had the greatest fighting force in the world, didn’t care what the colonists thought.

Eventually, American colonists were willing to fight a war for an unprecedented concept. They wanted self-determination; they wanted responsibility for their own lives; they wanted rule by the people.

The Declaration of Independence (we celebrate its adoption) was a remarkable document and a prelude to remarkable political change. Ordinary people didn’t tell their monarchs to take a hike. It just wasn’t done!

But that one document, signed by a group of influential men, told King George III, “You don’t respect us anymore, so we don’t need you or want you in our lives. We’ll make our own decisions, thank you very much.”

It was nothing shy of miraculous that the colonists went on to successfully repel the king’s military attempts to retain control.

It was a pivotal point in history, but we can’t delude ourselves that it was easy. The aftermath of the Revolution was chaotic and could easily have led to a very different outcome.

George Washington could have chosen to become a king (a position he was offered) or to serve more than just two terms as president. The Federalist Papers, which convinced everyone that ratifying the Constitution was a good idea, may never have been written. Lots of events could have been different and could have drastically changed the government we now know.

It is fitting we celebrate breaking the bonds of tyrannical control with loud noises and massive showers of light. We should be joyful. It took great courage to take that step of independence; it takes courage and vigilance to maintain it.

Happy Birthday, America!