Hi! Happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans!
The older I get, the more interested in history I have become. Learning seems to be a lot more enjoyable when you’re not being tested on it. Have you found this to be true as well?
I feel very fortunate that so far in my life I’ve spent quite a bit of time perusing museums in the U.S. and Europe. I’ve visited many historical sites. I love history podcasts and, believe it or not, I read history books from time to time…for fun. 15-year-old me would be shocked!
Perhaps like some of you, I grew up with a romanticized version in my head of how the United States was formed. Every year on the 4th of July we seemed to celebrate the founding of this country as a righteous cause supported by all. Whether this was how history was taught to me or a reflection of the cultural attitudes at the time, I’m not sure. Maybe it was a bit of both.
A common sentiment that seemed to seep into our collective belief structure is that it’s a good thing our country was founded when it was because that could never happen today with how divided U.S. citizens are on every topic of governance.
Spoiler alert! We’ve always been divided. We were just divided without being inundated about it on Twitter or cable news.
The 13 colonies resisted a union. In fact, they resisted a union for almost 200 years. Each colony wanted to do its own thing and have its own identity. They squabbled amongst themselves. They were repeatedly attacked by various entities.
More than once when it was suggested that they should join together or die, they chose death.
Can you imagine? I’m not sure my sense of self-preservation would have been able to handle that time period.
The colonies did half-heartedly try, from time to time, to present a unified front against an enemy or the British crown but it never lasted long.
It was only with great reluctance, some bullying, and an option of last resort that the 13 colonies joined together to form the United States of America. Even that barely happened. Maryland was a holdout. Virginia had to give up land claims to make Maryland happy and France intervened to “urge” Maryland into finally ratifying the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the U.S. (source)
Even then, there was no guarantee this union was going to survive. They were so dysfunctional and fought about everything from money and taxation to state and federal rights. Sound familiar?
If you’d never heard about this period of history and it was made into a movie, you would be on the edge of your seat in suspense wondering what was going to happen.
Or perhaps you’d just be exhausted from all of the drama. *raises hand*
All that to say, at a very simplified level, the united part of the United States of America is not a guarantee.
It’s a choice we make.
On this 4th of July, I’m thankful for the democratic process and those who protect it. I’m thankful for everyone who shows up to vote in each and every election. I also encourage everyone who is able to do so and has not yet done it, to vote. If you need to register to vote, you can do so here.
This week, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I wish you a safe and happy 4th of July.
P.S. I’m taking the rest of this week off of the blog but will be back next Monday, July 10, 2023, with a fresh new blog post! You can follow along with what we are doing this week on Instagram or Facebook.
P.P.S. The history book I’m reading currently is Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union by Richard Kreitner. I checked it out from the library! It’s a super interesting book but not the fastest read for me because I periodically stop to fact-check things. That’s my usual way of reading history books though.
If you’d rather listen to an interview with Richard Kreitner about his book, this one with Sharon McMahon of This It Where It Gets Interesting is really engaging. McMahon is a former high school government and law teacher.
If you’d like something to tide you over until next week, try reading one of these blog posts.
*affiliate links in this blog post*