Two-hundred and forty-three years was a long time ago; some of us can barely recall what we were doing when the final wording of the Declaration of Independence was agreed upon July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress.
In 2019, we find ourselves entirely removed from life as it was in Colonial America. Some of us may mark the Fourth of July by venturing out to enjoy the substantial retail savings advertised on vehicles and major home appliances. We may watch, or march in, a parade, which is another frivolous thing the colonists did not typically do because they were too busy trying to survive harsh winters and blistering summers. In the evening, we may gather to watch fireworks — an activity our colonial ancestors would surely find both wasteful and dangerous but nonetheless spectacular.
What if we spent the day like our foremothers and forefathers did: churning butter, butchering livestock, and emptying chamber pots? In addition to experiencing a very malodorous day, we would probably sleep very deeply and soundly at night due to the intense physical exertion not found in browsing the internet.
This could be a more meaningful way to celebrate the Fourth of July because we would emerge with an appreciation of the strength and smarts of our ancestors — they did all of this solid, intellectual thinking, writing, and organizing of a nation after handling all manner of primal, unsavory daily chores.
But we 21st -century Americans are not about to start fixing our own porridge, weaving our own undergarments or shodding a horse in an attempt to return to the essence of the Independence Day holiday. After all, this is why we have historical re-enactors. We can simply view trained professionals engaged in such activities at places like Colonial Williamsburg, or perhaps around the corner at the Kaminski House Museum here in Georgetown. I say perhaps because I haven’t yet visited the Kaminski House Museum; I’ve been too busy learning to make misshapen, defective colonial candles.
Still, we can honor our ancestors and their bravery and fortitude in a significant way, by declaring our own independence on the Fourth of July from some of the modern-day habits that yoke our bodies to technology and muzzle our potential.
The most obvious, and likely most difficult, would be to free ourselves from all electronic devices for the entire day. Enjoy getting unreliable national and local news from your neighbors instead of the networks. In lieu of a hasty email, hand-write a relative a letter. Play a classic board game with your children, or resurrect Monkey in the Middle. Come inside and fix some refreshing lemonade by squeezing actual lemons and adding water with a little sugar or honey. Don’t check my recipe by looking it up online — that’s an automatic disqualification from your e-Free Fourth.
Next, free yourself from powered vehicles. Walk or ride a bike to the store. Yes, you may still go to the store — this is not the Planet Janet Extreme Holiday Series. Soon to be featured on the History channel, this reality program will follow diverse families struggling to celebrate every major U.S. holiday in the precise year, manner and style in which it first occurred, from Christmas Day to Columbus Day.
Finally, try freeing yourself from your entrenched political position. Just see if you can entertain a tiny bit of the viewpoint from the opposite side. Is it possible that there is a good intention? If you can disregard the name-calling and vitriol — is it possible that there is a human being of a different race, color, religion, gender expression or age, simply echoing the essence of the Declaration of Independence?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Now that’s some fine writing. Time for me to re-dip my candles.
Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.