Having been born in Philadelphia and brought up in a nearby suburb by parents who cared about imparting knowledge of history to their children, Independence Day has always been one of my top three favorite holidays, second only to Christmas and Thanksgiving. Frequent visits to historic places like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell were quite common in our home, particularly during the summers. And whenever we’d host visiting relatives from other states, it was a sure bet that among other things, we’d give them the grand tour of the most significant places of the city and surrounding areas, from the Brandywine Battlefield and Penn’s Landing to the Penn Mutual Tower and the obligatory Philadelphia Art Museum (where invariably at least one of them would attempt a Rocky-style run up the steps).
During the Bicentennial Year of 1976, I recall my mother and assorted family friends/relatives piling all of us kids in the car for yet another excursion into Philadelphia for yet another celebration of our country’s 200th birthday. It was an exciting year for me, as — along with a bunch of other kids I knew, including my sister– I got to dress up as a colonial girl for that year’s early-American-themed Cardinal O’Hara Annual Fashion Show (for which my highly organized mother was the chairperson) and as Betsy Ross for Halloween (with a costume made specially for me by a very nice woman who was one of my mother’s good friends). Never mind that I recently discovered Betsy didn’t really sew the flag; it’s still a great memory!
In addition to exposing us to historic events and places, my parents often spoke of the emigration of their parents (in my dad’s case) and their grandparents (on my mom’s side) to the United States, in search of a better life. My father’s parents were young, married adults in their early 20s when they set out for this beautiful land of opportunity, with their two infant/toddler sons (the third of four boys, my dad was the first one to be born on US soil). They landed in a section of Philadelphia called Germantown. Although my grandfather never completed grade school, he worked hard as a tailor and owned his own home, in which the entire family took great pride. Yes, my father grew up in a row-house, not a stately mansion — but in those days, people cared for the things they’d earned, no matter how seemingly insignificant or trivial they might be by today’s standards.
Eternally grateful to be living in the land of opportunity, their primary goal had been to set the foundation for their children to go on to create an even better life, knowing that for each successive generation the only obstacles to success would be self-imposed. My dad went on to become a highly regarded general and vascular surgeon, after his dreams of playing Major League Baseball ended with a shoulder injury. Needless to say, he didn’t get a free ride, nor did he expect one. He worked his way through high school, college and medical school, maintaining excellent grades and earning the money he needed to achieve his dream. And he was thankful for the opportunity afforded him by virtue of his American citizenship.
On my mother’s side, the generations arrived here a bit earlier. In fact, her mother (for whom the character of Madeline in Water Signs is named) was actually born in upstate New York, in a town called Utica, before the family relocated to South Philadelphia. And thanks to the incredible courage of her widowed grandmother, my mom’s father became an American citizen at the young age of eight, an event I retell in flashback in my novel:
…Monica [character based on my mother] herself descended from a long line of “tough” women, beginning with her paternal grandmother Rosaria who as a young widow, uprooted her three small boys and relocated with them to America in search of a better life — a particularly gutsy move considering she didn’t know a soul in the New World, nor did she speak the language.
But unshakable faith and stalwart desire had spurred her on in spite of fear. And thanks to her abundance of courage, each of her sons had achieved remarkable success in their adoptive homeland as pharmacists, graduating from prestigious Philadelphia universities when such accomplishments were unheard of for immigrants.
Indeed, it is an everlasting source of pride for my mom to be part of such an accomplished family. My grandfather eventually opened up his own pharmacy in Germantown, which was a neighborhood landmark for over 25 years.
While I want to avoid negativity on this wonderful, world-changing holiday, I just wanted to point out one tragic statistic I recently discovered, thanks to another patriot friend in a recent chat room: 40% of 18-29 year-olds don’t even know why we celebrate July 4. That is absolutely disgraceful.
Our Founding Fathers risked their lives, sacred honor and fortunes to create an unprecedented system of government that acknowledged that the rights of man come from God, not government:
“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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed“.
For anyone unfamiliar with the European concept of the Divine Right of Kings and other oppressive systems of government, it may be difficult to comprehend just how astonishingly ground-breaking the Declaration of Independence was in the annals of history. To conceive of a government “for the people, by the people and of the people”, and to articulate this vision through the written word, as Thomas Jefferson did in the Declaration of Independence, was nothing short of an act of incredible defiance and courage in the face of tyranny. The fact that close to half of today’s young adults simply don’t understand the magnitude of the Fourth of July is a stunning testament to the success of the anti-American agenda in the public school system, pop culture and media.
I thank God for the patriotic revival now taking place from coast-to-coast, and I pray hard for its success in returning the USA to the Constitutional Republic created by our Founders. And if you know of any American citizen — young or old — who doesn’t fully appreciate this miracle we call the United States of America, I suggest they watch the History Channel’s The Revolution, an excellent recounting of our nation’s birth.
May God continue to bless America and her proud patriots!