The red, white and blue ribbons flutter behind the young girl as she skips along the parade route. Her hair glistens in the sunshine and she laughs with joy. She holds a thin stick, not quite a baton, with wrapping paper ribbon attached with a bow, way too much glue and curled with a big black handled scissor from mom’s special drawer. She’s dressed in the same colors, cute little white shorts that her mom thought were a good idea at the beginning and is rapidly second guessing herself with a mental note to get blue shorts for next year.
But the little girl is unaware of the colors, the meaning behind them and anything else except that her dad is off from work for the day, there will be games full of laughter, a BBQ picnic with cornbread and then fireworks and even maybe those silly red, white and blue turbo pops. It’s a day for celebration and family and almost a silliness in that freedom.
She has yet to read the works of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, but someday she will discover the political philosophy of the social contract to which the founding fathers drew their ideas. She might not yet understand terms like sacred honor, inalienable rights and consent of the governed, but she is learning through example the meaning of those phrases over the course of her lifetime. Even at her young age, she can see the difference between injustice and love.
For today is the Fourth of July, and the little girl is in awe as everyone comes together. The parade celebrates not only our independence from King George III but also the factions of society coming together in a unified march. A demonstration of unification and recognition, both of our commitment to the cause of liberty and to each other, just as our forefathers did with the signing of the Declaration of Independence and perhaps opening the eyes of the world and community to the rights of man and the blessing and security of self-government.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in his final public letter in 1826: “The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has been born with saddles on their backs nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them.”
He wrote his hope that we would annually return to this day to “forever refresh our recollections of these rights and an undiminished devotion to them.”
To celebrate a day based not on religion or race, on ethnicity or gender, age or pride, but a day where anyone can put on the red, white and blue and be part of the community. A day where there are no cliques or cults, but where everyone helps and participates. Potluck dishes come out from nowhere and fill the tables with deliciousness, the grills are manned by a variety of folks you might be surprised to see working together and the parade, well, the parade is open to all.
Let us not say that our freedom is perfect nor let us argue that ours is the most righteous, for the declaration speaks of the pursuit of happiness not the existence of it. The Declaration acknowledges that government is ever changing and that the rights of the people may, at times, be infringed upon by said government. And, when in the course of human events, a government no longer adheres to the social contract, it must be reminded of such.
Let us take care to note the historical context of a document that refers only to land owning, heterosexual white men and names Native Americans as merciless Indian Savages. But let us also remember that the words of this document encouraged those marginalized groups to stand up and declare their independence: White Women, African Americans, Native Americans, Irish Americans, Jewish Americans, Japanese Americans, and most recently Arab and LGBTQ Americans. While we cannot change a document written on parchment paper in 1776, we can heed the words. To work toward a world where all are created equal and given inalienable rights by the creator of nature.
The document itself tells us to be revolutionary, to constantly strive to improve the social contract and to pursue happiness. And so we must march in the Independence Day Parade to refresh these ideals, to further advance the agreement between us all, to make a nation state that will work toward both the safety and happiness of its people and to pledge together our sacred honor for the betterment of all mankind.
Merisa Sherman is a long-time Killington resident, local real estate agent, bartender, KMS coach and a proud citizen of the United States of America. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.