Celebrating our independence, together

9 years ago

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
Those aren’t the first words of the Declaration of Independence, but they are arguably the most famous. And while Thomas Jefferson agonized over every detail of our country’s greatest declaration, not all of those words came from his pen alone.    Like any good writer, Jefferson had good editors — mainly Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. In fact, Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration described those truths as “sacred and undeniable.” It was only through Franklin’s revisions, which were begrudgingly accepted by Jefferson, that the word “self-evident” was written into America’s history. My point here is that even in our most visible and literal moment of independence, America was a nation framed by a group of individuals — sometimes very politically motivated individuals — who were united by a single goal.
But on the 4th of July, we don’t celebrate the individuals, we celebrate their accomplishment. We don’t celebrate their words, we celebrate their meaning. We don’t remember the drafts of our declaration, we remember the declaration alone. We gather together on the steps of the Capitol, on our neighbors’ lawns, in parades and at fireworks shows to celebrate all of the freedoms that we share. From sea to sea, we are never as good alone as we can be together.
While we are all afforded the great gift of individual liberty, it takes collective effort to defend the personal freedoms we hold dear. Look no further than the community of Machias during the Revolutionary War.
The first naval engagement of the Revolution was actually fought off the coast of Maine in 1775, when Machias residents attacked and captured a British ship. Though the patriots of Machias were guided by a fierce sense of independence and rebelliousness, it was their efforts as a group — along with help from the Native Americans — that enabled them to outlast the British yet again when they tried to take the town in 1777.
Considered together, these two revolutionary battles in Machias serve as an important reminder: though our country was borne out of rebellion, it survives through unity. The liberty and freedom we enjoy exist because we continue to lean on each other for support.
So when the USS Anzio — a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser — sails up past Machias to Eastport for the city’s Fourth of July celebration, I hope those there to greet it will remember the events that took place just down the coast during the Revolution. As we rejoice in America’s past struggle for independence, we also rejoice in our continued willingness to come together for the common good.