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Editorial: Let’s honor Fourth of July tradition

Why can’t The Dalles be like other towns? Why can’t we celebrate America’s birthday with fireworks like other communities do? Why are we going to have fireworks on June 30 to observe the stand 13 colonies took on July 4, 1776, to break away from the oppressive British Empire?

Celebrating Independence Day should not be about making money; what day will work best to hold a profitable concert. The Fort Dalles Fourth Committee’s focus on increasing tourism seems to have become the tail that wags the dog.

Patriotism comes first.

We realize it takes money to make the magic happen and the committee wants to make sure there are plenty of festivities for families to participate in. This year, they have announced a roster of events that will cover the span of a week.

What we really need is one day, July 4, that will honor the sacrifices made by the men and women who fought and died to establish this country, and those have stepped forward ever since to defend it.

Some traditions should not be changed.

Independence Day is the time for Americans to unite and remember the blood, sweat and toil that went into freeing this nation from its overlord.

If covering the bill for the town’s party is the reason for not having fireworks on the proper day, maybe we need to scale back the party. Maybe we have a parade, community BBQ and whatever fireworks the community pitches in to buy. Wouldn’t that be enough if it was on the day that matters?

When Hood River and other communities are lighting up the skies on the evening of July 4, the day the Continental Congress approved a document that changed the course of history, the skies will be dark above The Dalles.

But we need to celebrate the Declaration, a formal explanation of why the colonies had to separate politically from the government of Great Britain.

With the stroke of a pen, the 56 signers declared the New World the greatest-ever experiment in personal liberties, something most Americans take for granted now.

On July 4, 1776, John Adams, who would become the first vice-president and the second president of the United States, wrote this note to his wife, Abigail: “I am apt to believe that [the signing] will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more…”

Congress encouraged fireworks on a national level by authorizing the first display on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia, a year after the Declaration was approved. The exhibition included 13 rockets in tribute to the colonies that had agreed to go to war with a much mightier force to win their freedom from taxation without representation. That same year, Boston shot off its first fireworks.

Presidents and notable figures in history have given addresses throughout the years on July 4 to remember acomplishments of the past and extoll the nation’s promising future.

One of these speeches was made by the late President Ronald Reagan in 1981: “Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with cetain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.”

Sometimes, the Independence Day speeches challenged Americans to make changes that would finish the work that had been started much earlier by the founders.

One of the most famous examples of a speech demanding change was made by African American leader Frederick Douglass on July 4, 1852:

“The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie.

“It destroys our moral power abroad; it corrupts your poliicians at home... Oh! Be Warned! Be Warned! A horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!”

Douglass’ powerful voice helped abolish slavery in America and set the stage for all men and women to be treated equally, although human nature has made that a continuing struggle.

The Dalles needs to take its place in America’s lineage and honor the promise that July 4, 1776, held for beleagured people around the world — and how much has been gained over the past two centuries.

Independence Day is a time to reflect on the fact that nearly three million troops have died in defense of this nation, the world’s sole super power.

The right day to do that is July 4, 2018, not June 30.

— The Dalles Chronicle


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