Spirit of 1776: We have a responsibility to the declarers of independence
Fireworks, flags and a day off from work.
The stated reason we consider July Fourth a holiday is to celebrate freedom. After all, historically, it was the day when this nation actually became more than just a gathering of patriots. We became, with the swipe of a pen, the United States of America.
So, we set off fireworks to remember the battles in the harbor the day Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and to honor those who decided freedom from English rule was worth risking their lives.
We wave flags to let everyone know just how we feel about being Americans, and we participate in parades and other events marking those early patriots who died to set their nation free.
One day a year we celebrate our freedom, and then we go back to the business of being citizens of this nation.
But after the fireworks are over and we have settled back into our daily lives, some of us forget that the price that was paid for freedom more than 200 years ago has left a responsibility to carry for those who are reaping its benefits today.
And it’s likely that if those patriots of 1776 were alive today, they would be astonished and ashamed of how we treat the rights they worked so hard to guarantee us.
They would marvel at the number of people who take no interest in the governing of their country and would shudder at the low percentage who turn out to cast their ballots on Election Day.
They would be incensed at the move to put the Pledge of Allegiance out of the schools and the cavalier attitude with which some people look at the burning of the nation’s flag.
They would probably wonder why every child does not know the story of our nation’s birth and why many adults seem to have forgotten that freedom carries a price.
Now, don’t despair, they would be proud, too. They would notice our efforts to protect the Bill of Rights and to make sure this is a nation of laws.
They would be happy to see the outpouring of patriotism when our nation was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and the way we rallied as a people to protect our own.
And they would understand the feeling when a veteran or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or Marine hears his nation’s anthem and salutes his flag.
This year, after July Fourth, we have the chance to remember the cost that has been paid for us to be able to live our lives in a free country.
We can vow that this year, we will live up to the responsibility we were entrusted with generations ago by a band of men and women who refused to give in to the forces of tyranny.
We can truly be Americans.
It certainly is a worthy goal.
And all it takes to start is remembering where we began.
Published in Editorials on July 1, 2006 11:42 PM