HOW, IN YOUR opinion, is the Revolution going, on this anniversary? The men who signed the Declaration were setting out to change the world, and, to the world's great astonishment, they succeeded. Like all good revolutionaries, they intended the great work to continue through the generations and elevate all those it touched.
One of the exasperations of being American is the inordinate amount of unrequested advice that this brings from the rest of the world. Things would go better, you will doubtless agree, if everybody else would only sit down and shut up and let the United States get its thoughts together. But that doesn't happen, because the rest of the world takes the Fourth of July more seriously than Americans generally do. The rest of the world knows that certain crucial ideas will survive only as long as this country upholds them. If Europeans keep preaching at Americans, it's because they are sharply aware of that truth--and they suspect that Americans frequently forget it.
It's not solely wealth and weapons that make Americans the proprietors of the Revolution. It's their blessed detachment--that's another source of friction with their friends--from the worst of history's evils. Whatever else you may think about Israel and Lebanon, you'd probably concede that having armed and hostile neighbors does not improve the clarity and balance of a nation's judgment. The last time Washington was attacked by a foreign power was in 1814, and casualties were not heavy.
The American government sometimes worries about the price of food, but never about the availability of it. That puts the Americans in a radically different position and one that is much more comfortable than that of just about any government in the wide expanse from the Oder River, in central Europe, eastward to the China Sea. The next time you're in a supermarket checkout line, you might give a moment's reflection to the great fact--one of the central facts in American history--that North America is the only continent that has never experienced a great famine and does not have massive, catastrophic hunger in its memory.
Americans frequently object that the rest of the world seems to hold them to a higher standard than any other country. But, in view of American luck and American history, is that not reasonable? If justice, liberty and other revolutionary ideas do not flourish here, it is hard to know what other country might be their defender.
The Continental Congress held the opinion that being an American was a vocation, with broad responsibilities for the course of history. From time to time Americans get fed up with the idea, and drop it. The purpose of the present holiday is to provide a gentle reminder that not even Americans can afford to take the revolutionary tradition for granted.