Happy Fourth of July. What does the fourth mean to you? An extra day of the weekend? A time for gathering with family? A day at the beach or lake? A day of reflection on being an American?
In this election year it seems that the idea of patriotism seems changed. I know that I am embarrassed by the political coverage especially from other countries and their media sources. With all the name calling and hateful speech one wonders if we can ever agree about the meaning of the fourth of July or what our country represents and of our American freedoms.
I have always loved the stories of our founding fathers. What I find incredible was their foresight, sacrifice and courage. Of course, I might be coming from a western European, WASPy background and thus feel in agreement with their philosophy. But I think it is more than that.
When I went to Ellis Island and read the stories and accounts of the newer wave of immigration, I saw the principles and ideals from our founders at work and still being upheld. Ours is a country of deliverance and freedom - one can come to our shores and have a new start. One can come and freely practice one's religion. One can speak one's mind about all sorts of subjects. One can put the past behind and turn to a new beginning.
One of the costs of freedom is responsibility. Just like we tell our children- you earn freedom to do things on your own by being responsible and showing that you can handle it.
As free citizens we have a responsibility to those who are also part of the country's collective. Just as I have rights, so too does my fellow American. That means that I am respectful of others. I allow them to freely speak and offer opinions just as I do. That means I am willing to get involved with self-governance; from the very least of voting to more involvement of civic matters. That means I am a good steward of my country and its resources. That I am willing to sacrifice some of my personal freedom (time, talents, resources) for the greater good of the freedom of all.
What about you? Have you always lived in America? If not, what was your experience? As an American do you feel patriotic? If the American Revolution was happening today, what side would you be on? The British? The rebels? Or would you not be involved?
"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be… the signal of arousing men to burst the chains.. and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or are opening to the rights of man… For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
June 24, 1826
Part of the last letter he wrote before he died. He was declining an invitation to come to Washington, DC for the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.