John Adams predicted in a 1776 letter that the nation would mark the anniversary of its independence as “the most memorable Epocha in the History of America,” hosting a great anniversary festival that ought to be “solemnized” forever after with “Pomp and Parade … Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”
That was prescient. This year’s commemorations may not be the most solemn or jubilant in modern U.S. history. There is no great victory to celebrate, as in 1946, no special anniversary to mark, as in 1976, and nowhere near unanimity in the proper direction for the country going forward. Long after Independence Day celebrations end tonight, America’s polarization will persist.