I love everything about the Fourth of July. Watching fireworks at a friend’s house or a big public display. Gorging myself on grilled delicacies. Talking with friends and family.
I also love the historical stuff.
Every year, I pick a book about American history and give it a read. I also watch a bit of HBO’s brilliant “John Adams.” Later in the month, we visit Philadelphia for our anniversary and make a trek to Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center.
If you’re like me you probably can’t help but think, “Why can’t we have two days like this out of the year.”
Truth be told, we should.
The Fourth of July celebrates the Continental Congress adopting Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. It also stands in for the Revolution and honors all the founders who helped us break away from Great Britain.
But that only celebrates half of the birth of our nation.
The historian Joseph J. Ellis (As well as many others, but he does it most elloquently) has argued there were two American Revolutions. The first broke us away from England. The second occurred a decade later several founders got together in secret in Philly and set up the Constitution and our current government.
There is a lot of reasons to agree with Ellis’ argument, particularly since several founders who supported independence did not support the constitution. They felt we had thrown off one foreign yoke and took up another that just happened to be on our side of the ocean.
But we should still celebrate Sept. 17, when the Constitution was signed. I don’t quite get why we don’t mark it as a national holiday. That we don’t have big national concerts or local fireworks shows. It’s almost like we celebrate our country’s conception, but not it’s birth.
Sure, there was no accompanying war. Sure, it’s basically a bunch of bureaucrats sitting around arguing about big ideas. There’s no bad guy like King George III. The compelling conflict isn’t a fight for freedom, but the struggle of man to govern himself. That’s pretty abstract.
Still, we should be celebrating the work these men did and how profound and foresighted their flawed document was.
Let’s be honest. If any country should celebrate itself twice a year, it’s us.