On July 2, 1776, The America’s Continental Congress voted to declare our independence from Great Britain. The next night, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail saying, “I am apt to believe that [July 2] 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.”
Of course, we don’t celebrate Independence Day on July 2. We celebrate it two days later—the date of the issuance of the single greatest, most beautifully written, meaningful, and powerful press release ever created. But aside from quibbling about the date, John Adams no doubt would approve of how we observe America’s birthday. We have our parades, our fairs, our fireworks, just as he said we should have.
But we don’t have to limit our celebration of independence either to the 2nd or 4th of July, or to the means which John Adams prescribed. We can—and should—celebrate our independence every day, by continuously participating in our elections, and by questioning, challenging, and holding accountable our governments and their leaders.
In other columns I have urged those interested in our city government’s spending and taxing priorities to attend council meetings, committee work sessions, and whatever other forums are made available to listen, learn, and speak. Everyone who does so, whether he consciously thinks so or not, is celebrating our independence. And so too is everyone who protests a decision of a governmental commission or board, who insists on a fair and public trial on an issue for which he believes himself to be not guilty or liable, or who votes in a free election, or who otherwise participates in the political process to work for peaceful change within the system. These are all celebrations of our independence.
And if reports presented by The Flash Today and Erath County Breaking News are correct, this fall we may have new opportunities to celebrate our independence. There is a drive to secure enough signatures on a petition to hold an election in which we, the voters of Erath County, will have the opportunity to decide whether we want our county to be annexed by the Ranger College District. Benefits of annexation would include the opportunity to elect representatives to the RCD’s governing board, as well as the possible development of new programs to aid county residents. The most obvious cost would be an increase of at least eleven cents in our property tax to help finance the RCD.
I’ll probably be writing more about this issue itself in future columns. For the time being, I offer it as an example of the sort of issue about which you may be hearing more soon, and with which you may want to get involved, either by supporting or opposing annexation. But whatever side you take, you’ll be working within the best traditions of American independence. If you oppose annexation and the subsequent tax increase, you’re well within the tradition of our tax-resisting founding fathers. But even if you support annexation and a tax increase, you’re working within a system that will permit no new taxes without representation.
So make John Adams proud. Go to a parade, go to a fair, shoot off some fireworks, or watch a firework display on July 4th. By the time he died, on July 4th, 1826, Adams recognized it’s the 4th we celebrate. And on the 5th, exercise your right to choose whether to get involved with taxes, Ranger College, more spending, or less. We have much to celebrate as Americans, and many ways to do so.
Happy Birthday, America.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.