July Fourth is a salute to American independence

Published 2:43 pm Friday, July 1, 2022

Monday, we celebrate our 246th Independence Day. Our longevity as a nation has been amazing, withstanding assaults from both within, the Civil War, and without, the two world wars. We are a nation founded on the inspiration of equality, and yet fractured by our inability to fully honor that ideal.
We, as Americans and a free people, take so much for granted, especially our freedom.
At a time when America is more divided than ever, we need more than ever to celebrate the freedoms that July 4th represents. Our annual celebration of freedom offers an important reminder that no matter our political, religious or cultural differences, we are united by our shared pursuit of American ideals.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
These are the “unalienable rights” spelled out in the bold document that gave voice to our revolution and rise to our nation. And don’t forget the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal.”
Our Declaration of Independence was written and signed by imperfect men who, despite their flaws, managed to lay the groundwork for the greatest country this world has ever known.
It may not feel that way to many Americans today.
To some, celebrating Lady Liberty’s call to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” feels misguided at a time when our country has separated migrant children from their families — and can’t seem to get them back together.
To others, freedom of speech may not feel real if wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat keeps you from being served at a restaurant.
To people of color, equal rights may not feel so equal when you’re reminding your children to be extra cooperative when interacting with police.
And to those who enjoy displaying the American flag on their clothing or cars, it may feel outward expressions of patriotism are not always so welcome. As we gather for picnics this Fourth of July, we may find ourselves choosing between the table of people who support a border wall and the one where people think we’re facing the end of democracy as we’ve known it.
But we’ve got to find a way to better talk to one another, especially to the people we most cherish. There has got to be areas where we do agree. Let’s start there. Today.
First, we are Americans — not Democrats or Republicans. Our forefathers came to America from other countries. They came on the Mayflower and other vessels that braved the daunting waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. They came from Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Africa and various other places. They often spoke different languages, had different backgrounds and cultures. Yet, they are desired one thing: freedom.
Though our differences seem daunting and personal to the core, the Fourth of July reminds us we are fortunate to live in a country that protects our right to be different. And our government is built for us to work through our differences peacefully, for the good of us all.
We’re a country designed to demand equality, though our founders included slave owners.
We’re a country built by hard-working immigrants, who continue to be drawn to our land of freedom and opportunity.
We’re a country that divvies up its powers to avoid the kind of tyranny that can descend from red-coated soldiers or over-reaching executive orders.
And we’re a country that settles our differences through public debate, the courts and the voting booth — not by the violence that engulfs so much of the world.
For all our frustrations with whomever resides in the White House today — or with what Congress is or isn’t doing — this is our country, with a government established by the people and answerable to the people.
But, first we need to vote — vote for the things that define us as American, not some political party or candidate.
Our nation has been through tough times before. And history shows we move in the direction of progress, of things getting better.
But it takes informed citizens willing to engage.
As Ronald Reagan once warned, freedom is one generation away from extinction.
We must always remember that freedom is not free. So many have given their lives to see America remain free. We must never forget that.

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