On July 4, 1776, a bunch of brave men with a whole lot to lose set about declaring independence from the British Crown. It was not an easy decision they faced together, for as Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
They were a feisty bunch and had had their fill of taxation without representation and government a whole old world away, and from that document signed in 1776, we have this nation. I’ll keep it and be thankful I was born here on the same day 181 years later. Regardless of what others may say about her, America is an exceptional nation, a beacon of hope and promise to millions who risk everything to get here and stay here, much as those who signed the Declaration of Independence risked everything they had, including their very lives, in the creation of this nation. I will not budge from this position…the people at our borders speak far louder than the polemics that besiege us from every qualified and non-qualified quarter.
As for me, July 4, 1957, marked my dependence on others to care for me, raise me up, make sure I got educated by participating in it, and then ultimately set me loose to become independent. I suppose July 4 was a good day for me to be born, because I appreciate my independence and liberty. I value them above nearly all things earthly. Different people see things through different lenses, though. There are those who would argue that I am not really free…that I am a marionette manipulated by international corporations and mysterious cabals: perhaps the Rothschilds or the Illuminati, or Exxon, or Microsoft, the NSA, or Wall Street. To them, the fact that I don’t know this is evidence of its truth. Well, some of it may be true since some things are beyond my control to influence or manipulate. I am dependent on fossil fuels. I am dependent on food produced by mega-farms and distributed by mega-stores. I am also dependent on the mostly free-markets that furnish them to me while allowing me to earn a living to pay for them. This is not a new development. Nor is government regulation to control the dealings of men with other men. Nor is taxation of those markets and corporations to pay for the services government provides.
In the history of mankind, many republics and democracies have descended into aristocracies, plutocracies, oligarchies, and eventually, tyrannies. We want none of those things. While we may not have a utopian government, no one else does either, since it does not exist on this earth. We owe each other our best efforts, though, and our best efforts are not always about how we can best serve ourselves. Liberty requires that we sometimes serve each other else our liberty becomes nothing more than another possession kept among dusty things that clutter up our lives.
“What’s up there, Grandpa?” the grandson asked, pointing at the object on the top shelf.
“Why, son, that’s my liberty. I keep it up there in case I need it,” the grandfather replied.
“It sure looks a might dusty,” said the grandson with a shake of his head.
“Yep. I reckon it is. I don’t use it much since we got cable TV,” said the grandfather. “Hadn’t thought much about it, really. Least, not in a long time.”
“Can I look at it, Grandpa?” the boy asked.
“No. No. It’s not for children. Just for grownups,” the grandfather said. “Kids can’t use liberty. They’d mishandle it.”
“Bet it wouldn’t get dusty, though,” said the grandson more to himself than to his grandfather, which is just as well since his grandfather didn’t hear him, being too busy channel surfing in search of the least bad program on TV to watch. The boy stared at the shelved Liberty wondering just what it meant to have it if you didn’t use it, or even take it down and polish it a bit in admiration. “I have some old toys like that, too,” he thought to himself.
Liberty, like real life, has warts and blemishes. We must continue on in spite of them because I don’t think they can be removed.
I am proud to have been born on July 4. I am thankful for the men who signed their names to the Declaration of Independence: those who felt that their liberty was so important they would win it or die trying. It could have worked out differently. Not all former British colonies have had things turn out quite the same, though things seem pretty good for many of them.
While there are many things that drive us apart as citizens, there are many things that bind us. Perhaps we should focus on these things rather than the divisions, but doing so would be like turning on the news to hear only the good reports when what the public really wants is scandal, scuttlebutt, and controversy. Those three things certainly make for better TV ratings.
That is as far as I am going to go today. Happy and safe 4th of July, everyone. Enjoy your holiday with your families and friends. Me? I’m just glad to be here and to see another birthday! That is….if I make it until then.
Waste no time embracing those you love because now is all we have.
Did I mention anything about politics? Well, if I did, it’s my birthday this week. Everyone gets a freebie every now and then.
©2014 Mississippi Chris Sharp