Monday, July 4, 2011

Firecracker day

July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress unanimously voted for independence from British tyranny.  Our founding fathers risked their lives in this pursuit.  Under British law, this was considered treason, punishable by death.  The document ratified was written by Thomas Jefferson, a Virginia slave owner.  Benjamin Franklin and John Adams had a hand in editing some of the superb language, but felt that Jefferson's work was exquisite, as do we today. However, we feel somewhat differently about freedom than Jefferson did.

John Adams was an intense personality with a fiery temper.  His views arose from deep sentiment and a strong sense of morality.  On July 3, 1776, he wrote three letters to his wife, Abigail. He expressed a great deal of excitement in the last letter of that day, the day before that most auspicious of days, July 4, the day that would change the world, the day that set forth radical ideas and would ultimately change the course of mankind.  Adams sensed this and with his usual verve, he wrote Abigail with his visions for the future.  He felt that July 4th would be celebrated as a national holiday with fireworks and parties in the streets.  He understood the magnitude of this event before it had even taken place.  He could not have envisioned the magnitude of current events.

I live in a small town in Wyoming where people are allowed to shoot off fireworks.  Families often spend more on fireworks than on Christmas so that the air is heavy with sulfurous smoke and the roads littered with garbage. This is done without understanding the purpose of the day.  In the last couple of years, I have asked neighborhood children why we shoot off fireworks on July 4th.  The reply?  Because it is firecracker day!  I said no, it is the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.  What is that?  The day we celebrate the end of British rule and British tyranny, the day we became a nation in our own right.  They looked at me as if I were speaking Greek.  It would seem we have taken Jesus Christ out of Christmas and now we have taken freedom out of the 4th of July.  I wonder what Adams and Jefferson would say to this. 

George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the first three presidents of a great nation we call the United States of America.  Washington lead an army for freedom.  Adams lit the flames on the torch of patriotism for the new nation.  Jefferson gave us heart and inspiration.  Today, our army fights for freedom, though not ours. The flames of patriotism are often merely the smoke that blinds us to the needs of one another.  Our heart and inspiration have become an attitude of individuality that cares not for the common good. 

These 235 years on, it is time to revisit our history books and our forefathers.  It is time to understand that while we fought back tyranny of one kind, we traded it for another; a tyranny of apathy, disinterest and ignorance.  We have come full circle to taxation without true representation and to the type of bloated federal machine that has no more concern or understanding of its citizens than King George III had for the colonists.

This is the year to declare our independence once again.  It is time to understand history so we are not doomed to repeat it.  It is time to understand that the gift of freedom carries a burden of responsibility, and that those responsibilities belong to all of us.  The unalienable rights, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the American definition of freedom, but freedom is not freedom without equity.  It is time to go back to the source, read it and understand it; create a few fireworks of home grown variety.

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