Holiday Throwdown: Election Day vs. the Fourth of July

I’m a nerd for elections, so to me Election Day is like Christmas  Halloween  Flag Day the Fourth of July for others.  I know the Fourth celebrates the approval of the Declaration of Independence, and represents our 13 original colonies’ freedom from Britain, etc., but I like Election Day even more, and think it should be a national holiday.  This year in Minnesota, without a state-wide Federal position up for grabs, the excitement isn’t the same, but I’m nonetheless energized.

(Note: I’m using slight hyperbole from here on out, though I do think the arguments are interesting.)

The reason I like Election Day over the Fourth of July (officially Independence Day) is that I get to participate in shaping the future of my country.  Well, this year I’m just helping out my state (a more noble cause if you favor confederation).  Also, Election Day doesn’t come as often as the Fourth of July, so it’s more exciting when it does.

Also, and I know I’m stretching a little here, the Fourth of July is sort of a poser holiday.  The spirit behind it is noble and strong, but I’ve heard two arguments against Independence Day holding the title of Most Patriotic Holiday.

Questions About the Date
July 2, 1776 – Separation of the 13 original colonies from Britain became legal when the second Continental Congress approved the resolution.  The Declaration of Independence was simply the explanation of what happened on July 2.

July 4, 1776 – Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, which served notice of the events on July 2.

August 4(ish) – Historians now believe the Declaration was signed about a month after it was adopted, meaning it wasn’t technically resolved until early August.

Better Options?
There are other options for celebrating days that represent our nation’s formation.  For example:

Constitution Day – September 17, which commemorates the ratification of our Constitution in 1787.  As a bonus, it’s also Citizen’s Day, which recognizes those who have become U.S. citizens.  No, it’s not the same as independence, but one could argue that our Constitution is what really makes us different, not the fact that we declared independence.  In fact, the U.S. is one of 219 (!) former British colonies.  33 new countries have emerged since 1990 alone.  Also, September 17 is the date the U.S. “gave” independence to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.

Treaty of Paris – September 3, 1783, which officially ended the Revolutionary War.  So technically, our independence was gained on this day.  Among other, better known points in the treaty, a piece of Minnesota pride and geography was born.  The Northwest Angle, the only part of the U.S. other than Alaska north of the 49th parallel, was created when establishing boundaries between the U.S. and British North America.  You can’t get to that part of MN by car without carrying your passport.  Therefore, Northwest Angle, MN, is the answer to the question, “What is the furthest point north in the contiguous United States?”  (Most think it’s Maine.)

Anyway, Independence Day is a great holiday–just as good as any other.  But it doesn’t make me feel particularly more American than any other holiday, though Election Day does.  With so many glaring examples of elections questioned or gone wrong (Iran in 2009, Iraq in 2002, and Rwanda this year), we’re lucky that we can all vote without fear, and trust that the system works.  (Most of the time.  But even our missteps pale in comparison to what happens in other countries.)  We even have a whole slew of rules in place to make sure the polling locations are peaceful and equitable to all candidates, like outlawing even t-shirts.  In MN this year a judge recently rules that you can’t wear Tea Party t-shirts to the polling place.  Opponents argued that the shirts don’t support any particular candidate.  More here.

I guess I just think Election Day should be held in higher esteem, and we should all get the day off.  Voting is so important, so patriotic, and not to be taken for granted when so many people don’t have the right.  Today was an awesome day.

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