Along with the hot dogs and hoopla, the hoagies and hooch that accompany the Fourth of July, perhaps, and this is just a suggestion, but perhaps this would be a perfect time to discover America’s story.
I make this suggestion, not as one who is a historical whiz, but one who fought to stay awake during high school American history class while a dry and mundane textbook was propped upright on my desk.
Now that I’m older, but still struggling with the wiser end of that adage, American history has taken on a new perspective. Oddly enough, the chance to dig into that new perspective began with, of all things, a television clicker.
While flipping through the channels one afternoon searching for a romantic comedy to lighten the dreary day of wet and wind, a History Channel ad, “America The Story of Us,” zipped by.
Sometimes you get to flipping so fast, backtracking is like putting the brakes on a speeding Ferrari. Somewhere in the cosmos an HD satellite beam was screaming, “What the…?” as I mercilessly pounded the back button. I found the ad and the rush of historical inquisitiveness took hold.
Every Sunday for six weeks I watched the history of America unfold. Although not a thorough historical depiction, the series showcased the highs and lows of this country’s beginnings, the vision of its forefathers and assorted twists and turns that have taken it, as “Toy Story’s” Buzz Lightyear would say, “To infinity and beyond.”
It told of foreigners who arrived with little more than unbridled hope and a bucket load of determination and beat back disease, pestilence, unforgiving weather and an aristocracy clamoring for tax money to fund England’s wars.
As America evolved, the first inklings that slavery contradicted the Declaration of Independence’s guarantee of equality stirred the conscience that eventually incited a Civil War. Equality and freedom have since stretched their tentacles throughout America’s Constitution, laws, and lifestyle and remains a steadfast goal in our ever changing country.
The defining mark of being American was evidenced from the riots that ripped through the still-prevalent British influence of the colonial period, to George Washington’s description of a two political party system as “sinister;” from the transcontinental railways built primarily by Chinese immigrants, to the Greatest Generation who paved the way for the industrial era; from the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French people, not its government, to Joseph Pulitzer’s call for donations to construct the pedestal upon which Liberty stands.
From trust to terrorism; tyranny to triumph; bondage to freedom, we are a people of raw courage. Independent yet united. We do not go gently into that good night…or day, for that matter. The stories and aspirations of native peoples and immigrants alike have transformed this country into one of infinite potential. And today, 234 years after gaining independence, our story continues.
So perhaps, and this is just a suggestion, but perhaps this Independence Day, instead of booming the heck out of the neighborhood, take time to learn about America and understand the history behind it. Put personal perspective and opinion of right and wrong on hold and view the history and events that molded this country with an open mind.
Then perhaps, and this is just a suggestion, but perhaps your own story will emerge after realizing how strife and mistakes, blood, sweat, tears, hard work, willpower, compassion, acceptance and a staunch resistance to tyranny in any form, built and continues to build this prosperous, strong, diverse and tolerant nation.
It was amazing for me to see and hear the stories that told from whence we came, the road forged and the path in which we are going. Perhaps I’ve finally come to understand and appreciate the reasons why this country is and always will be, “We the People…”