Blog: Independence Day

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Burt Ross

Three hundred and sixty-four days a year (and 365 in a leap year), we Americans engage in our favorite pastime — bashing the very government we elect. The attacks come from the right, the left and everywhere in between. All  politicians are crooks; there is too much regulation; there is not enough regulation; we are too involved in the affairs of other countries; we tax too much; we tax too little; why don’t we help other nations more? The list of complaints is endless.

And then, one day a year, on July 4, we come to our senses, and we celebrate this great country we choose to call our home. It is, of course, our choice, since all we need is a plane ticket and a passport, and we can live virtually anywhere else on this planet. But almost everybody chooses to stay right here, and millions of people take substantial risks to enter our land and to have what we take for granted. 

On this one very special day, we reflect upon what our founding fathers literally risked their lives for by signing that simple, powerful and revolutionary declaration: 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed … ”

If this revolutionary document was not enough, only 15 years later, the first 10 amendments to our constitution were ratified. This Bill of Rights proclaims in just Amendment I alone, “Freedom of religion, speech, and the press, rights of assembly and petition … ”

A distinct minority of countries enjoy what for us are guaranteed basic rights.  Look around the world and you will see dictators who imprison and murder their opponents, jails filled with journalists whose only crime is trying to report the news, and, of course, the brutal slaughter of innocents who simply attempt to practice their religion.

This Saturday, many of us will flock to the beaches, have friends over for a barbecue, march in a parade or possibly watch the fireworks, and some of us might very well feel a sense of guilt that all of this celebration is contrary to the solemnity of the occasion. On the contrary, it is exactly how our second president John Adams suggested we honor the occasion in a letter to his wife Abigail, “ … it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance … solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.”

So let’s celebrate our country’s independence and all that goes with it, and, yes, Sunday, we can go right back to criticizing our government — a basic right our forefathers fought to give us.