You have to hand it to the Jews, because they do remembrance better than anyone. What other group on Earth has had a continual remembrance of an event for more than four thousand years? But you don’t do that without ritual. They commemorate their liberation from tyranny by the hand of God with tradition that varies little (if at all) from year to year, full of symbolism and memory and dignity and the solemnity of righteous law.
Compared to Israel, the United States is an infant with ADD. We remember nothing because we ritualize nothing. Ask any American what they celebrate and they’ll likely say “the Fourth of July”, not “Independence Day”. We have our fireworks, cookouts, and parades, but little else, and little remembrance to go with that fun.
That must change. We should follow the example of the Jews in this regard.
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with 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.” – John Adams writing to his wife Abigail, from Philadelphia, July 3rd, 1776.
John had the date wrong, but you can hardly fault him for that. Congress had, after all, agreed to the Virginia Resolution on the second, but that’s a detail lost to most of us because we have chosen to forget it. We read the paper and it says “In Congress, July 4, 1776.” That’s it, and we take it at face value without knowing the rest of the story.
The Passover Seder and the Chanukah festival are my guides here. The idea is to design a multi-day ceremony with actions and feasts that are each symbolic of a different part of the story of the American Revolution. Therefore, on the First of July,
- We drink tea in the morning to remember what life was like before the Revolution.
- We eat fish & chips to remember the English heritage of this country.
- We drink Madeira wine with the meal to remember the sloop Liberty and how it was a milepost on the way to rebellion against tyranny.
- We read the story of the Exodus from Egypt to remember deliverance from tyrants by God’s miracles.
- We read “Bloody Butchery by the British Troops” to remember Lexington and Concord.
- We watch 1776 to remember the political difficulties that were overcome for the sake of unity.
- We shoot a flintlock to remember how war was waged.
- We fly the Bunker Hill Flag to remember the struggle in the north.
I can imagine some would object to the religious references, but to ignore those is to ignore perhaps the most critical aspect of the people who accomplished the Revolution, and to ignore John Adams’ advice to commemorate it with acts of devotion to God.