Out and About (Sort of): Bemused Brits Unfazed by July 4th by Howard Freedlander

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Ever wonder what our British friends think about our celebration of July 4th as we gather for cookouts with family and friends, watch fireworks with great delight and wear patriotic clothes?

What I don’t wonder about is whether current residents of the Mother Country feel embarrassed about the defeat of British forces during the Revolutionary War. I suspect they don’t care a whit. What happened more than 240 years ago when our rebellious young nation rose up in angry protest against what it considered repressive treatment by its British rulers is all in the past.

My not very extensive search for insight to the British viewpoint on American frivolity on the fourth day of July led me to a reservoir of good humor (or should I say “humour?”).

Vigilant about injecting politics into this week’s column, I will only say that the Brits must be having a field day in applying their wry, sometimes biting commentary about the ridiculous behavior of our cartoonish president. Okay, readers, I will move on; I vented, moderately.

As I combed through a maze of internet writings, I happened upon Redux / Suffolk Scribblings and found a mother lode of humor entitled “5 Reasons why the British should celebrate 4th July.” I will summarize them:

  • “It was our idea.” The thinking goes like this: Thomas Paine, born in Thetford, England, wrote “Common Sense” only two years after arriving in the United States, it was an early book promoting colonial America’s independence. John Adams, one of our founders, heaped great praise on the book.
  • “We got to keep Canada.” Though I said I would not delve into our nation’s messy, dysfunctional politics, I must say that Great Britain is far better off at this time in history with our civilized neighbor to the north than our divisive, poorly functioning states.
  • By paying attention to other colonies after granting independence to its bumptious American cousins, Britain could focus on India—and enjoy its culinary delights such as curry.
  • July 4th is the only day in the calendar year that Americans pronounce correctly. “For 364 days in the year, our American cousins say April Sixth or February Eleventh. It is only on this special day that the date is pronounced correctly: the fourth of July. “
  • Perhaps the most important and substantive reason (my sarcasm) is the retention of cricket as a singular possession of the British, regardless of the popularity of baseball in the United States. Bemoaning the domination by Australia, India, the West Indies and South Africa in cricket, the writer muses: “Can you imagine how dominant the US would be if all 400 plus million people loved the game?”

To turn serious, I find that the most significant expression of British acknowledgement of our July 4th celebration occurred on July 4, 1940. In an incredibly effective and eloquent speech before the British parliament, Prime Minister Winston Churchill goaded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to leave the sidelines of war waged by Nazi Germany and join Great Britain in fighting this menace. Specifically, Churchill succeeded in persuading Roosevelt to approve the Lend Lease program involving vitally needed warships.

What Churchill said was masterful. He told the world, including the reluctant United States, that England would stand resolutely committed to defending democracy against a rapidly spreading despotism.

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender, and even if, which I don’t for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s name, the new world, with all power and might, steps forth to the rescue and liberation of the old.”

So, ironically and strategically, Churchill rallied his countrymen on America’s Independence Day—but, most importantly, pushed the United States into a conflict it no longer could ignore. Churchill understood that the Free World was in desperate jeopardy. This crusade required dependence by allied countries on each other to preserve freedom.

Surrounded by good cheer, good food, and glorious fireworks, the Fourth of July has a moral underpinning to it. Winston Churchill understood that link and persuaded President Roosevelt to give renewed attention to American responsibility.

Happy Fourth, USA and Great Britain!

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

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