Ross Mackenzie

A 4th of July conversation between Dude - a teenager - and his Uncle Sam...

Yo, Uncle. Wasup?

Good morning, Dude. What am I doing? I'm getting into my suit for the parade.

What're you gonna be in a parade for? They gonna have a lot of hot chicks and cool floats?

I don't know about that, Dude. But I do know there will be many military people and ordinary citizens - and brass bands playing Sousa marches and songs about America. It's our annual celebration of independence and liberty.

Whatever. So why the monkey suit? Why the funky pants and all the red, white, and blue? You'd look better in a Dead t-shirt and maybe some Michael Jackson shoes - 'specially if you're going to rock in some parade.

I'm ashamed of you, Dude. I should have thought my brilliant nephew would have learned in school that white represents the virtue of America, blue America's courage, and red the blood spilled to make us - and keep us - free.

Man, what I did learn was that the Fathers voted for independence on July 2nd, not the 4th. The 4th thing is bogus. All that happened then was they printed some document.

The Declaration of Independence. Very good, Dude. At least you have learned something. In signing the Declaration over the subsequent months - a treasonous act in the eyes of England - more than 50 resolute Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to birth a nation in liberty. They did it for themselves and for us. No such thing ever had happened before. By war's end, fate had dealt harshly with nearly all of them. An extraordinarily high number were dead or ruined.

John Adams was, in his words, "well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory." He saw well - to the glorious liberty we enjoy today.

So that's it? All this parade is about that you're going to be in is, like, freedom? Big deal.

A very big deal. In my view, the biggest. It's also about the panorama of high moments in this beloved country. The Mayflower Compact - the first extant document of our nationhood - which begins, "In the name of God. Amen." The Revolution and the Founding. The Civil War and the end of slavery by our redeeming final Founder - Abraham Lincoln.

Our manifest destiny westward and, later, upward into space. And the too many wars necessary to maintain the freedom of this great, good land.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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