Here’s hoping for another reason to celebrate after our 235th birthday
It’s evolved, for most of us, into watching climbers summit Independence Rock on the Colorado National Monument, rodeos and street dances in places like Collbran, and the community celebration in Palisade.
At our house, we remember the Gothic-to-Crested Butte Run, Walk or Crawl 1/3 Marathon that made it a pretty frosty holiday a dozen or so years ago when my still-sleepy wife realized on the bus ride to the starting line that my promise of an all-downhill 8.3 mile run wasn’t quite accurate.
The long Fourth of July weekend we just celebrated always brings parades in Grand Junction, Fruita and other communities in the surrounding area. Some of the best are in mountain towns like Crested Butte, where the late thaw this year means the skunk cabbage is still developing and the traditional leafy costumes the folks from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory wear in that parade might have been a tad skimpy yesterday.
Always, there are fireworks. You had to bring your own seat to Lincoln Park to watch Grand Junction’s annual display since Stocker Stadium is “closed for remodeling.” Fruita’s display gave us another opportunity to “ooh” and “aah.”
We celebrated the Fourth of July as Independence Day, the date back in 1776 when the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence for the 2.5 million people in our then-British colonies. Americans have memorialized that action since the 18th century, but not without controversy.
Back then, many argued that July 2, not the Fourth, should be considered the birthday of our nation. That was the date the Continental Congress approved a resolution favoring independence, adding approval of the Declaration of Independence in another vote two days later. One of the founding fathers, John Adams, refused invitations to participate in early Fourth of July festivities, feeling strongly that July 2 should be the date memorialized.
This year, the Census Bureau estimates there were just under 312 million Americans celebrating our 235th birthday.
Some of us remembered to put up our flags. If we did, they were likely to be imported. Last year, we imported $3.2 million worth of American flags. According to the Bureau’s foreign trade statistics, most of them, $2.8 milion worth, were made in China. We also imported more than $197 million worth of our fireworks, all but $7 million from China, to go along with the $232 million worth of pyrotechnics manufactured here at home.
More than 200 years ago, verbal fireworks were part of the discussion when colonists first began talking about independence after initial battles of the Revolutionary War broke out in the spring of 1775. Those initially advocating a split from English rule were considered radical. “Common Sense,” Thomas Paine’s pamphlet published about a year later, helped move sentiment toward independence.
But that June, when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, delegates first postponed a vote on forming a new nation, designating a five-member committee, including Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, to study the issue and report back.
About a month later, delegates approved the resolution for independence and followed with approval of the Declaration of Independence two days later, a vote that became unanimous after the New York delegation changed its abstention to approval.
Let’s hope that process, those lessons, are in the minds of our current representatives when they go back to work in the nation’s Capitol today.
Perhaps senators will move beyond partisan pyrotechnics and start solving budget and debt-limit problems instead of posturing for political gain. Like the Continental Congress, maybe they could take their lead from their own subcommittee, the “Gang of Six (now Five), and seriously consider a compromise, a mix of new revenue and cuts that might actually move us forward.
I’m wondering if GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who’s walked away from budget and debt limit discussions with the White House and congressional Democrats, and Sen. Tom Coburn, who left the “Gang of Six,” might want to spend some time thinking about where we’d be as a nation if those early, outnumbered proponents of independence back in 1775 had merely exited the discussions instead of persevering.
Taking some cues from our first Continental Congress, solving today’s problems using lessons from the past, would be something worthy of true celebration as we begin our 236th year as a nation.