This week we celebrate the work of an extraordinary group of men who wore ponytails and short pants. They were fond of ruffled shirts, long-tailed coats, and triangular hats, and they tied their hair with silk ribbons.
When they really wanted to look fly they wore velvet. Many of them wore wigs, even if they had full heads of hair, and powdered them white. A few even wore makeup at times.
They could be a witty bunch whose humor leaned toward long, multi-layered insults. A number of them were inventors. A great many were fluent in Latin and Greek, several in Hebrew and Aramaic, and most in two or more modern languages. All of them knew their Bibles very well, even the ones who were not believers.
They did not all agree on anything and arrived at their most important decisions only through a great deal of horse trading and compromise, which is why nearly every argument today based on "the original intent of the Founding Fathers" is pure fiction. The founders were rarely of one mind.
They were not all good men. They were not all honest. They were not all revolutionary idealists, and those who were would each ultimately compromise his ideals out of necessity, or for political gain, convenience, or money. Usually for money.
But despite their flaws, there was a moment — one brief, heady, and glorious moment — when they all truly believed they could remake the whole world. Novus Ordo Seclorum, a new order of the ages, was what we called it before we forgot a little of what we were about as a nation and forgot all the Latin our founders knew.
Our purpose as a country was written down as a statement of eternal truths in phrases prettier than any poet or lyricist has ever penned: "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Next week we celebrate with fireworks, songs, speeches and flags. We will, as always, compress into that celebration everything we think is good about America. But what we celebrate, the real reason for the holiday, is not about flags, songs, and fireworks. It is not about the military or the great men of history.
Next week we celebrate our reason for being a nation. We celebrate our commitment to those eternal truths expressed in the Declaration, the truth of universal human rights, and we celebrate in the knowledge that we have a part to play in the cause our Founding Fathers handed down to us because the Revolution of 1776 is still on.
The original version of this article was first published in The Vindicator’s July 5, 2018 edition.