Revisiting History

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I realize this essay runs the risk of sounding school-marmish, but this topic is “on my mind.”   I suppose I am something of a stickler about words.  As a school girl, a split infinitive would be met by rapped knuckles.  A student using the word “less” when “fewer” is correct would be called out in class.  With an eye for precision, I find myself wanting people to refer to today’s holiday as Independence Day, rather than the Fourth of July.

I regret that the important meanings of our summer holidays are all but ignored in favor of sun and fun.  Memorial Day, in the minds of most, marks the beginning of summer, not a day of remembrance for soldiers who gave their lives in service to America.  Indeed, the holiday grew out of the astounding bloodshed of the Civil War.  Similarly, Labor Day is noted as the end of summer, with the closing of swimming pools, summer camps and the beginning of school.  Yet, when Labor Day became a holiday at the end of the 19th century, it was done so to honor the working class, with labor unions playing a political role in its passage.

My impression is that Americans are actually more attuned to the original meaning of the “Fourth of July.”  The patriotic parades, the John Phillips Sousa marches, and the flags waving in every direction would point us in the direction of straight out national pride.  However, in my perfect world, people would recognize that this is the birthdate of our country—our independence from the motherland England not just the “Fourth of July.”

I had decided to skip this posting to minimize the perception of me as a first-class fussbudget.  However, as I had the local news on just now, and they referenced a survey that made me change their mind which made me change my mind.  As reported on Channel 7’s ABC channel in New York, a survey (I believe conducted or first reported in U.S. News & World Report,) 58 percent of respondents did not know that July 4th is celebrated to honor the Independence of America.  A quarter of those answering the survey didn’t know the country from which we declared independence.

So, here’s to better civics education.  And Happy Independence Day.

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