What We Celebrate When We Celebrate Independence Day

Heading into the July 4 weekend, you’re probably getting ready to fly the flag, have a cookout or watch a parade and pyrotechnic display. But it’s also a good time to reflect on what we celebrate when we celebrate #Independence Day.

The Second Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence on July 2, 1776, but issued the #Declaration of Independence — announcing the legal separation of 13 colonies from Great Britain and establishing a new nation — two days later.

Founding Father John Adams told his wife, Abigail, that he expected July 2 to be the date celebrated “with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more,” but the official declaration’s date became the anniversary day.

The document is remarkable for championing the equality of all men; guaranteeing the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and establishing the government as the protector of those rights. If the government fails to protect these rights, it says, the people are free to form a new one.

At the time, no other nation had defined its purpose in such plainspoken and universal terms, and the concepts are worth revisiting. And with the United States now the richest and most powerful nation in history, many forget the advantages of such inalienable rights or attempt to restrict others’ access to them.

While American society has maintained considerable and often brutal inequalities in the years since, today we interpret the Declaration of Independence as guaranteeing the foundational rights of rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to everyone — not just people of one’s own race, gender, religion or party. The nation’s #veterans have fought repeatedly to protect those rights, and they could dissolve just as quickly as they came together in 246 years ago in Philadelphia.

This July 4th, take time out to enjoy that all-American hot dog. Go see that parade. Watch a star-spangled display. Enjoy the long weekend. But remember that in establishing a new, self-governing nation, the Declaration of Independence sought in some measure to mitigate oppression for every citizen of the United States. And that work is not yet complete.

COVID Is Still a Factor This Summer

Mask mandates are disappearing and COVID-19 transmission is less of a worry in warm weather, but you may still wish to observe precautions depending on your age and risk factors. Watch local transmission rates like you would the weather, CNBC suggests, to gauge the current threat in your area, and continue to wear an N95 mask if it makes you more secure even if no one else does so. “Grocery stores, theaters, hair salons and other public indoor venues are safer with a mask,” AARP says. “Researchers found that people who wore an N95 in public settings were 83 percent less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than those who wore no mask.” #SummerSafetyTips

Watch out for Ticks

Spending time in wooded areas this summer? Tick populatiions have exploded in recent years, and depending on the region, they can carry Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. They will attack any part of the body, but tend seek warm, damp places such as the underarms, scalp and underwear area, Banner Health says. Check your body for ticks after spending time outdoors; if you discover one, use a tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull it upward and out to ensure it doesn’t leave its mouth parts. Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol. #SummerSafetyTips

Practice Summertime Water Safety

Swimming, boating and water sports are popular summertime activities, but be aware of the threat of unintentional drowning, which causes thousands of deaths every year. “We encourage families to build confidence in the water by learning to be safe, making good choices, learning to swim and how to handle emergencies,” the Red Cross says. Swim in a supervised, lifeguarded areas, it recommends, and designate a “water watcher” to keep an eye on people in and around the water. Learning advanced swimming techniques and CPR are good ideas at every age. #SummerSafetyTips

Protect Against Insect Bites

In many regions, outdoor activities such as hiking and camping are accompanied by the annoyance and discomfort of insect bites. Use insect repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin, Banner Health says, and read labels to ensure you apply them correctly. To make yourself less of a target for mosquitoes, biting flies, wasps and other insects, wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing in muted colors, and avoid heavily scented soaps or perfumes. Keep your shoes on when outdoors and consider draping beds in mosquito netting to keep those itchy bites to a minimum. #SummerSafetyTips