by AndrewMc | 7/04/2009 04:10:00 PM
As people celebrate the Fourth of July with some quintessentially American activities--blowing stuff up and drinking gallons of beer--let's try to remember those who sacrificed to make this possible.

You may be thinking, right about now, "Yes, Andrew. So many soldiers laid down their lives to enable this country to survive."

But that's not who's on my mind.



Instead I'm thinking of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, especially Thomas Jefferson, and a host of other intellectuals who came together and crafted the Declaration of Independence. I'm also thinking of John Locke and George Mason, whose writings had a great deal of influence over the final Declaration.

Coming to the precipice of declaring independence was no easy thing. And yet a whole host of intellectuals contributed to that process. And even after that we have a number of intellectual luminaries to thank for helping to make the nation what it is today. Reinhold Niebuhr comes to mind. As does Abraham Lincoln. Even though I disagreed with most things he said, William F. Buckley was a towering intellect. There are others.

All of these people, and many other intellectuals, contributed to what this nation is today. Yet somehow the Fourth of July has joined Memorial Day and Veteran's Day as celebrations of the military, of military accomplishments, and of military sacrifice. Look around at what happens today. At most any gathering we'll be asked to take a moment to think of the sacrifices made by our veterans. Will anyone mention Roger Sherman? John Locke? The English Bill of Rights as a precursor to the Declaration? The intellectual influences of the Glorious Revolution on the development of the colonial American mindset?

Why is this? I suspect that it stems from a few things. One is that we are a country at war, and we still suffer a hangover from the perception of our treatment of veterans after the Vietnam War. So, we want to ensure that that doesn't happen again.

The other reason, I think, is because it takes a much more broadly educated citizenry to think about and celebrate intellectuall achievements. It also requires a citizenry that is better educated about its history in order to celebrate the non-military sacrifices made by various Americans over the past several centuries. In many ways its easier to think about the very real sacrifices made by our soldiers.

But the Fourth isn't supposed to be a military celebration. After all, the Revolutionary War was already well under way. The Fourth is about celebrating the beginnings of our independence. Certainly there is a military component to that. But independence wasn't initiated on the battlefield. It was a process that occurred over the course of several centuries.

And, while it was certainly maintained, at various times, on the battlefield, one could make the argument that Brown v. Board and Wounded Knee had as much a hand in shaping who we are as Americans as did Vietnam.

So, as you celebrate the Fourth today, tip your hat to our soldiers. But take the time to help others remember the intellectual achievements that gave us--and helped us maintain--our independence.

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