When I think of the Fourth of July, I can’t help but remember our heroic forefathers who fought and even died for our freedom. And though I wholly support the premise that the Fourth is a time to celebrate our hard won liberty with fireworks and parties, I wonder how our concept of freedom in 2010 compares with those who signed the Declaration of Independence and fought in the Revolution to ensure our human rights.
Today, do we really appreciate the courage and commitment those men and women willingly bequeathed for generations to come, or do we take it for granted? Are we truly grateful for their sacrifices or do we feel a sense of smug entitlement? Do we actually realize that without their brave resistance to the tyranny of the Crown, we wouldn’t be the most powerful country on earth, more than 200 years later? Do we simply feel superior to third world countries in other parts of the world, that don’t enjoy the same privileges that we experience daily, like clean water and food?
I try to imagine how our ancestors would feel in the present day if they could see us squandering our precious resources, squabbling over petty political differences, and blaming the government for all our problems, as we passively relinquish our own civic responsibilities, sitting in front of our TV’s and whining about how bad things have become. I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone; on the contrary, I count myself among the less than innocent.
If our venerable precursors from decades ago could see us now, they might smile and shake their heads, concurring that no one could have guessed where their tireless efforts at establishing a democracy would lead. After all, there were no guarantees for utopian perfection as a result of their life or death labors. They might think with pride that, on balance, the U.S.A. is still the greatest country on earth. Besides, people will always be people. Then with magnanimous kindness, they would forgive us for our transgressions, conferring upon us their unconditional love.
No one could deny that we’ve made great progress in our country’s development, which taken as a whole would stun earlier generations. But I believe we can expect more of ourselves in honoring those who secured our independence. As a country we’ve begun to lose something important somewhere along the line: The loss has been subtle, and perhaps all the more insidious. A moral standard of autonomy was driving force when our nation was first founded. While it still exists, it often seems to be relegated to a mere passing formality.
It could be that our spirits have been jaded somehow. Perhaps it’s because things have come to us too easily, but that doesn’t completely explain it, since many of us still suffer from poverty and neglect. Maybe it’s because the media has exposed so many sources of terror and ugliness that we’ve become callous. Or it might be because the banks, big business, the auto industry, and the oil companies have so much control and influence that as individuals we feel frustrated and immobilized.
But I don’t want to point fingers. There’s too much of that already. I believe the preservation of our great country depends on each one of us to do whatever we can to make it better. I realize we’re trying, and it isn’t easy, but it's time to rekindle our passion to keep freedom alive: We can resolve to stay informed and think for ourselves—not just when we vote, but throughout our lives. We can be accountable for our actions. We can raise our children with values of integrity. We can share our time and resources with others in need and accept our fellow Americans in all their wonderful diversity. It begins or ends with us.
Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow once said, “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” My reasons for quoting him are nonpartisan. We all need one another in stepping up to our position as a responsible caring leader of the free world and beyond, a role facing severe challenge every single day.
Are we a world in crisis or is it just business as usual? Either way complacency, apathy, cynicism, and despair were not qualities on which this nation was created. And they’re not operational now. My words are not a condemnation, just a rallying cry. I’m proud to be an American and I still have faith that the principles of our heritage will prevail and even triumph.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!