Upon leaving Glacier National Park, we returned to Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. The long drive to Sheridan, Wyoming, was occupied by vivid stories of Hamilton’s rise to power, influential position in the first Washington administration, and bitter rivalries with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Although written in 2004, if published today the book would serve as a historical commentary on today’s political situation. The parallels between the late 18th century and today are simply astounding. “These days we think our politics are nasty and partisan,” wrote David Brooks in his review of the book. “But our discourse looks like a Platonic symposium compared with the vicious fighting that marked the early Republic.”
As we traversed the great western states of Montana and Wyoming on July Fourth, our immersion into this period of American history heightened our appreciation of liberty and justice for all, and raised our awareness of how illusive it was then and continues to be today.
We arrived at our overnight site in Sheridan just in time to watch “A Capitol Fourth,” a free annual concert performed at one end of the Mall on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building (an interesting side note: the concert series began in 2004, the same year that Chernow’s book was published). This year’s event came on the heels of President Trump’s salute the nation’s military at the Lincoln Memorial at the the other end of the Mall. America was on full display from end to end, with protesters and counterprotesters, concertgoers and museumgoers, supporters and detractors, patriots and politicians, members of the military and ordinary citizens all gathered to observe in some form or fashion the nation’s 243rd anniversary of independence.
As we made our way to our little Fourth of July cookout and campfire, we learned a few things worth sharing:
- Political conflict is as old as the Republic and a sign of a healthy democracy.
- Patriotism has many forms and cannot be contained by the ideals of any particular group or individual.
- Dogs are generally upset by fireworks.