I don't point all this out to say we, as Americans, should not celebrate American Independence because I believe we should.
It signifies our forefathers literally telling British rule they weren't going to take it anymore.
In 1852, Frederick Douglass, an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman was invited to speak about what the Fourth of July meant for America's African-American population. They stood in the face of a despot and brought liberty to each individual American, guaranteeing our God-given rights through their selfless sacrifice.
The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental congress on July 4, 1776 (it wasn't signed until later) in an act of treason against a government that wouldn't afford its citizenry such freedoms.
As it turns out, a number of copies of the document were made at the time of adoption. They were all Americans.
Today, 41 years later, people seem to have forgotten that.
How much we know or appreciate from the beginning to fight for independence is suspect, depends on the ability to distinguish substance from symbolism, fact from fiction, ideology from ideology.
In trying to address how people think of their own life journey, we didn't challenge their perception that their independent actions drove their life outcome.
But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. It's not that we get to go off and do whatever we want, whenever we want, by ourselves, everybody else be damned.
"If you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated in our charter of liberty", Lincoln told the Lewiston crowd, "let me entreat you to come back".
The Declaration of Independence is America's revolutionary Charter of Freedom and the document upon which the nation's founding principles were established.
That's why the Declaration of Independence talks about the people's right to alter and abolish and the Constitution has an amendment process. "America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!" Though the legal separation happened on July 2, it was only because the draft was signed by 56 representatives from the thirteen colonies on July 4, the day is considered as the birth of nation.
We do not need to agree with one another, but we do need to work with one another. These courageous service men and women remind us that the liberties we often take for granted are valuable and worth fighting for. Indeed, when a government sets out to crush the moral truths that "all men are created equal" and possess the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", and when it fails to secure "the consent of the governed" for its enactments, the people have a right to "alter or abolish" that regime.
Several accounts have Jefferson's last uttered words as, "Is this the Fourth?", to which a doctor nods and suggests administering more medication to ease the patriot's pain, only to be met with a blunt, "No doctor, nothing more". I invite you to google President Calvin Coolidge's speech on July 4th 1926, at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, on the 150th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Vance W. Tong is the managing editor of the Portland Tribune.