Dear Reader: Don't worry. I won't begin with a Webster's definition, as much esteem asI have for that publication, the ultimate authority, a Bible for editors.
But I'll ask you a question as someone without expertise but with a sincere interest in American history.
Were the colonies back in colonial days dependent on Great Britain really? Seems to me, having read some of the Howard Zinn series on what really went on in those days that each family had their own home and really needed firearms. There was a real excuse back then.
Unlike the rosy scenarios portrayed by Sturbridge Village and Colonial Williamsburg, peace did not reign. There were constant disputes between Tories and patriots, Native Americans ("mercilessless Indian Savages" in the declaration; there is no mention of slavery) trying to coexist peacefully while invaders scooped up their properties, and others who weren't so accommodating. There were territorial disputes between neighbors unrelated to politics.
There were town merchants to sell other provisions.
The colonists made their own clothes, wove their own material; there were cobblers general stores in towns and cities.
The colonists were fully capable of independence from Great Britain. Enclaves of patriot towns abounded, ousting British delegates long before the real war, which couldn't have been won without late assistance from the French.
The esteemed General Washington suffered from constant desertions, from farmers who needed to be home half the year, many worried about their wives and children left alone to fend for themselves, with sons stuck with the work Paw usually did, if there were sons old enough for that. Others were just plain miserable or ailing--shoeless ramshackle militias in ragged tatters compared with the sartorial splendor of the British, intimidating as well as pleasing to the eye. How did they keep their whites so white before the days of Tide and Cheer? The colonists made their own soap and I'm sure the Brits were well supplied, though they did need to add mercenaries to their numbers--thanks heavens for those drunken Hessians up against the freezing shoeless in my hometown, Trenton, New Jersey, right after Washington's crossing.
So what are we really celebrating each July 4--getting rid of the British, though loyalists still abounded in the colonies? Getting rid of all those infernal taxes, a reminder of which persists on Washington, DC, license plates that all read "Taxation Without Representation" (except for license plate #1--I don't know if Obama has added back this slogan that Bush 43 subtracted.)
July 4 commemorates freedom from or liberty from British tyranny.
An elementary school teacher once asked us why we won the Revolutionary War. She answered that the British were at a disadvantage having to invade from so far away onto enemy shores. But it was such a fleet that rescued us once and for all, and the French drew inspiration to initiate another revolution that resulted ultimately in dictatorship rather than the democracy we are still aspiring toward--most of us anyway.
Liberty Day or Freedom Day, not freedom fries (how ironic a response to the same friends in need), rather than Independence Day.
Independence Day sounds so much loftier, and we are so used to it. July 4 is a synonym as well as a crucial date. How about Declaration Day--or does that sound too much like Decoration Day? July 4 does celebrate the declaration rather than the victory.
Like John Paul Sartre ("like" in the very broad, reverent sense), I might next ask, who is really free? There are good and bad forms of servitude that define our lives.
Even life and liberty, especially liberty, were relative terms back then. Would you call the first Puritan New England colonies democratic? We had a ways to go. We always will.
But imperfect as the greatest democracy in history is, it's still something to celebrate on a grand scale, pray for its continued survival ("In God We Trust" adorns the seed of our present struggle, coins and $1, $2, and $20 bills).
Happy Fourth of July. May we recover, most of us, to celebrate more Freedom Days as we evolve toward a freer society where all are truly equal.