The 201st Anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence is just the kind of date for taking a deep breath and thinking about our national identity, about where we’ve been, and where we’re going. The 5th of July should be about what brings us together, and what sets us apart from other nations.
Sadly, there is no room for such reflections on July 5th because, as we all know, today is also the Day of the Army. An eminently civic event has been transformed into yet another excuse for obese generals to parade their hardware.
This has always been a pet peeve of mine. On July 5th, 1811, a group of men, some intellectuals, most of them farmers, representing a large chunk of modern-day Venezuela (Maracaibo and Guayana didn’t sign) met in the St. Rose of Lima Chapel in downtown Caracas to sign a long-winded document.
There are no grand declarations of the rights of man and all that in the manuscript. In fact, it reads like a summary of the Napoleonic wars and its effects on this forgotten corner of the world, only to conclude that, in the name of God Almighty, we declare ourselves a free nation.
The 5th of July was a civilian event. There were no battles, no gunshots, and whatever generals or armies there were, they were secondary. The birth of our nation was the result of the will of a few visionaries, who took advantage of the chaos in Europe to say “We’re free.” The whole thing took place in a chapel, fer cryin’ out loud.
And yet, as with many things in our country, the Army hijacked it and turned it into a chance to celebrate … themselves.
It’s as if we can’t, for a second, envision our national identity without the army. It’s as if nothing and nobody important in Venezuela has ever worn anything other than military garb.
Perhaps this is not the cause of the outsized role our military plays in our nation, but rather a consequence of it. Perhaps.
But it’s about damn time that changed.