Now that the smoke has cleared from the sky, the backyard barbecues have cooled and the cobs have been de-corned, what do you remember most about this past Monday’s celebration of our country’s birth? The food? The fireworks? The sales? Or simply a day off work? Personally, I won’t forget the cacophony of car alarms triggered with every loud burst from the fireworks high above CVHS. Really, people?
With every fourth of July, I’m reminded of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments on the “Tonight Show” when he interviews random people on the street about various topics. A few times over the years, his interviews have posed questions to average Joes about the meaning of our nation’s fourth of July holiday. “
“Why do we celebrate the holiday?” he’ll ask, or “Who was George Washington?” Or even “What does Independence Day mean?” Believe it or not, many who walk among us don’t have the slightest idea that the fourth of July and Independence Day are one and the same. I’ve watched with my mouth agape as Leno asks his subjects what or who we declared our independence from some 235 years ago, only to get blank stares in return. At first, it’s funny. Then sad. Finally, it’s frightening.
I’ve seen Leno quiz college students, recent high school grads, parents, young adults, even some people who claim to be public school teachers. Granted, only the most dense and clueless make the show, but the fact that our society seems to be turning out increasing numbers of historically illiterate mouth-breathers is cause for alarm.
The truly despicable thing (in my opinion, at least) is that – as a direct and purposeful result of our left-leaning, multicultural-focused education system – more American students today could likely tell you what Cinco de Mayo is all about than could explain the importance of the Fourth of July. What have we done?
We’ve created a culture that is increasingly blasé, and in many cases even embarrassed, about the bright, shining uniqueness of this exceptional country. Even our current president, when asked if he believed in American exceptionalism, said yes, he does, “… just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism …” In other words, America is no big deal. Ho hum. When’s my next tee time?
What can we do to reverse this dangerously deliberate dumbing down of our citizenry? I’m so glad you asked.
One of the wisest men alive today, Dennis Prager, is a Crescenta Valley resident, prolific author and talk show host with an impressive national radio audience (heard locally on KRLA 870 AM). This past week, Prager introduced what may turn out to be the easiest, most effective way to teach the next generation some of the most important aspects of America’s founding. After years of stressing the importance of ritual and tradition not only in family life, but in the life of our country, Prager has created what he calls a fourth of July Declaration.
This important new ceremony was patterned after the world’s best known commemoration of a historical event – the Jewish Passover meal, which has been instrumental in keeping alive the memory of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt for over 3000 years. To participate (and appreciate!) this ceremony, one doesn’t have to be Jewish, Christian or any faith at all. You just have to be an American willing to dedicate less than 10 minutes of your holiday to the cause of American community.
As Prager states on his web site (www.prageruniversity.com/fourth-of-july-declaration), “As Americans … we need to rediscover the meaning of our country’s creation. And we need to do it every year. That is the reason for ritual – to enable us to remember. Without ritual, memory fades. And without memory, life – whether of the individual or of a nation – loses meaning.” Amen, sir.
Independence Day 2011 is already history. But I urge you to take a look at what Mr. Prager has created and see if it wouldn’t make next year’s holiday more meaningful, more memorable, and most importantly – more significant than any your family has experienced to date.
I’ll see you ‘round town.