I know I have a lot of listeners who are not from America…so for you, the 4th of July is just the day that comes after the 3rd of July.
In America though…it is independence day. It is the anniversary of the day 240 years ago that the declaration of independence was signed. With the signing of that document America became a new nation, completely independent from Britain’s rule. All of a sudden we were our own boss…we were independent.
So the 4th of July is our national day. Other countries have National day’s too. I decided to look them up and I found a list of 171 countries that have National days, and in most cases it is a day that celebrates independence from another country.
As I was looking over the list I started to notice something…Of the 171 countries listed, 55 of them celebrated their independence from the United Kingdom on their national day…just like us.
There are a couple ways to look at it…the glass half empty approach would be that England really was hell-bent on taking over the whole world and it didn’t work out so well.
While with the glass half full approach you could say that Great Britain is responsible for 32% of the national celebrations in the world…Yay for England!
Putting all that aside, a question looms; Why is independence such a big deal that it causes entire countries to come together and celebrate it?
In America we celebrate with fireworks and picnics, eating and drinking, families spending time together and people getting the day off work…unless you happen to work at one of the National retail chains that tries to capitalize on our patriotism.
I had the great opportunity to be in Oslo Norway one year when they celebrated their National day on the 17th of May. They had won their independence from Denmark. It was similar to the fourth of July in many ways…but it seemed bigger to me somehow, grander, deeper. It made the 4th of July seem like a great party, while the 17th of May was a true celebration that fills the people with national pride from the youngest to the oldest.
They have a parade of children in every town…imagine a river of children going through the streets waving flags and holding banners. There are speeches in the parks, and games the whole community can join into, they wear special clothing called Bunads that signifies the area they are from. So…it is a party, yes, and it’s a lot of fun…but the people really come together and celebrate something; their independence and autonomy as a nation. Nationals, immigrants, children and elderly all come together on this day for this special purpose, and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.
That experience in Norway caused me to see the 4th of July in a different light. Sure we all know…we learn in school what it was all about. But how often do Americans actually remember what we are celebrating? When you go to the fireworks show or fire up the grill and crack that beer open do you also stop to consider for just a moment how things would be if those brave men and women who were the first Americans had not done the things they did to win our independence and secure our nation? Do you share the story with your children and explain what the day is about? I think we as a country sometimes take our autonomy for granted…and it’s kind of sad.
America is far from perfect. We did, and continue to do a lot of things wrong…but, we also did a lot of things right, and better than any other country ever did before…that’s pretty cool and I prefer to focus on and celebrate those things. We have the other 364 days of the year that we can gripe and grumble about the injustices and inequities and all the other things that might be wrong. But, on this day…and on the National day for every other country in the world why not be proud and truly celebrate the things that are right and good? For one day put aside differences in lifestyle, culture, religion and politics…and just be Americans.
OK, so that’s about as political as I’ll ever get on this show. I started out intending to just talk about the concept of independence as it applies to being a better man…but then I got sidetracked by the holiday itself. I’m going to take a minute now and just talk about independence.
The struggles that early America went through to gain it’s independence from England is not that unlike the struggles we face as young men and women seeking our independence. England was the parent and we were the child. We thought our parent to be overbearing and old-fashioned and we thought we had a better idea, so we struck out on our own.
We crave independence as a species, we don’t like anyone telling us what to do and it often leads to a lot of mistakes being made. I know it did in my life, I was so anxious to become a man and be my own boss that I ignored the good council of my elders and wound up suffering for it on more than one occasion…that’s part of the process though.
I believe independence should be a goal for every man. In this case independence would be defined as operating, functioning, deciding and choosing the path and rhythm of your own life, relying only on yourself and the strength of your own will to accomplish the things you decide to.
Independence is the opposite of dependence, and It would mean not being dependent upon situations and conditions, but rather…persevering and figuring out how to excel in spite of those situations and conditions…or to take it even further, being the force that creates situations and conditions that are favorable. Imagine if every man lived his life this way…it would be a different world wouldn’t it?
To gain your autonomy…your independence as a man is still possible, even though we are subject to laws and governments and employers and economic statistics…we can still be autonomous men. How? By first understanding what we believe and what we stand for as individuals, and then by never compromising those beliefs for anyone or any thing. To put it another way, to be true to yourself at all costs.
And there will be costs, some severe and some not, but there are always costs associated with independence, you must resolve to endure those costs whatever they are, before you begin. The reward for doing this is knowing what it is like to live and die as an independent man, and in doing so…be an example for others to follow.
OK, I’m going to wrap it up there for today…I know you all have places to be and parties to attend. I want you all to have a great 4th of July, and be safe. I also ask that you take a moment to reflect on what you are celebrating, maybe even share it with someone else. You can also use this time to reflect on your own independence as a man…and what it means to be a better man today, than you were yesterday.