There are specific moments that mark the calendar year annually that mean something different for everyone. The Fourth of July is one of those days that, while some consider Memorial Day weekend to be the start of summer, firmly puts into place that summer is really and truly underway. More than hotdogs, burgers, refreshing salads, and gatherings with our loved ones, the Fourth of July is also a time of reflection.
After a session of the Constitutional Convention whereby the laws of the United States of America were to be enshrined in perpetuity, an eager citizen asked Benjamin Franklin what sort of government was decided upon by the delegates sent to conjure up a constitution for the fledgling nation. Franklin’s response was, “a democracy, if you can keep it.” In what feels like one once-in-a-generation crisis after another, it’s important for us all to step back and take stock of what a leap of faith it was for the citizens of the 13 colonies to rise up against the mighty British Empire based on principle and dignity.
The American Revolution, as we have come to understand, was fought because of the simple premise that the citizens of the colonies could no longer tolerate ever-heavier taxation while they were afforded no representation in British Parliament. As members of the Hellenic Diaspora, we are all too familiar with that concept as for two centuries the Greek Diaspora was expected to help fund the Greek State, maintain businesses in Greece, send money back to relatives etc. – all the while paying taxes with no right to vote on the political happenings of the country which would affect them, their properties, and their loved ones. It goes to show that democracy is constant work – an evolving process – and as we have learned, especially this year with countries trying to forcefully change the borders of other countries through force, it can be taken away in an instant.
Let us enjoy all the traditional fun that July Fourth gives us around the grill, by the pool, at the beach, but let us also understand that we have something to celebrate on that day because of the bravery of a people who radically refused to be subjugated any longer.