April 19 is Patriots’ Day, and a time to remember why America exists at all.
On that day in 1775, a rag-tag band of colonists near Boston took the first armed stand against British troops in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, igniting the American Revolution and laying the groundwork for a future nation — one for which they were willing to surrender their lives.
The gall, gumption, and sense of fair play that would come to define the U.S. was there from the start.
“Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they want a war, let it begin here,” Captain John Parker told his Minutemen — so called because they were prepared to fight at a minute’s notice — who assembled in a local tavern in Lexington the evening before to await word of the British. The mighty redcoats were looking for fugitives John Hancock and Samuel Adams, and a cache of arms rumored to be stored in the neighboring town of Concord, but they were in for a rude awakening when they approached shortly after dawn and ordered the Minutemen to disperse. The colonists stood their ground, and no one knows for sure who fired “the shot heard around the world,” but by the day’s end, 273 British soldiers were dead compared to only 94 colonists. The losses were an astounding indicator that the heavily-armed redcoats were no match for the red flames of patriotism coursing through the veins of the poor, starving, ill-equipped, illiterate farmers who made up the colonial force.
On April 19, flag-waving patriots in New England states will re-enact the battles and the events leading up to them — complete with the triumphant ringing of the bell that warned the local troops of the British approach. Wisconsin also holds a special observance day for schools to inform students about the history of Patriots’ Day, without which the rights and privileges we continue to enjoy would not exist.
It’s certainly a day to place America where it belongs — on the highest pedestal available. No other nation has risen above a revolution and civil war in its short existence to become an international beacon of hope, liberty, and charity for the world’s oppressed masses.
Other nations, particularly Middle Eastern and North African ones in areas now yawn-inducingly known as cradles of civilization, are still mired in millennia-old feuds and anxieties that have stunted their growth and made chronic victims out of them. Egypt has been around since 3150 BC, yet who would know it judging from the obstacle course of challenges still facing it, including a military-led government’s brutality against protesters and pro-democracy groups, its resistance to handing power to civilian leaders, and the rise of Islamists in the nation’s first free recent elections?
Modern-day revolts around the world pale in comparison to the American Revolution, largely because they are motivated by vengeance, not a good and just vision. America’s founding fathers distinguished themselves from despots and extremists by pledging to form a nation with guaranteed provisions and rights for all people, and then actually keeping their word and doing the work.
Patriots’ Day is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the sacrifices of the Lexington and Concord colonists, and the beauty and goodness of this great land, whose flexibility and friendliness is second to none, and where even the bad times are better than the good times elsewhere.