John Adams thought that July 2 would be celebrated by future generations of Americans. That was the day in 1776 in which the Continental Congress declared America’s independence from Great Britain. (The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, which would become a national holiday.)
Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail Adams, that week in which he predicted how the “Day of Deliverance” would be commemorated in future years.
“It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more,” Adams wrote.
The bonfires and illuminations have been a tradition in our night skies for hundreds of Fourths ever since, in countless fireworks displays.
And in Washington, D.C., today, there’s a really big “Shew” happening on the National Mall. President Trump will give a televised address from the Lincoln Memorial as part of a national celebration he orchestrated. There will be flyovers by military jets, including Air Force One and the Navy’s Blue Angels. There will be tanks on the Mall, at the president’s request, and a fireworks show will provide the finale.
It seems predictable that, in 2019, a “Salute to America” provokes political division. Critics of Trump say the program seems more like a salute to him and his reelection drive, at a cost to the taxpayers of millions of dollars. Surely Adams never could have imagined pomp and parade of this magnitude.
The drumbeat of political negativity and bad news to which we are subjected too often makes us forgot how much Americans have to celebrate. If that were not so, immigrants would not be risking their lives to get to our shores.
Patriotism, which surged after the 9/11 attacks 18 years ago, now is too often used as a political football.
This week the Nike company canceled distribution of a new line of patriotic sneakers after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick tweeted it was offensive.
The sneaker, created to celebrate the Fourth of July, features the Betsy Ross American flag, which features 13 stars in a circle. Kaepernick, a political activist and Nike endorser, allegedly told the company he found the design offensive because it depicted a flag from a period when slavery existed in the United States.
In terms of political football it was “game on.” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, called the sneaker company “anti-American.” The Republican governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, scolded the company on Twitter and said the state was withdrawing economic incentives it had planned to offer Nike to build a manufacturing plant in Phoenix.
Whether Nike uses Betsy Ross flags, or Colin Kaepernick commercials, to sell its fancy sneakers is of little concern to us. We recommend you turn your focus elsewhere for the Fourth. Trying stepping away from social media; turn off cable news and dial back your consumption of talk radio.
Take a holiday from outrage and go to a picnic or a cookout. Watch a parade, in person, or attend a baseball game. Take a hike or lie on a beach. Think of the patriots of 1776.
To John Adams, squandering our hard-won freedoms by wasting time on petty politics would seem very ungrateful.
“You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom!” Adams wrote. “I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”