Undoubtedly, there was more than one reading of all or portions of the Declaration of Independence given across the country today. Speaking of which; don’t you think that Independence Day is a holiday geared more for children? It’s not that adults don’t enjoy it as much as their charges; they definitely do but I think their, our celebration comes with a more seasoned viewpoint on life.
Let me rephrase it. When we’re young, we’re prodded by the teachers to “think about what liberty means” over the July 4th holiday, rather than simply running around gorging ourselves on burgers and hot dogs and generally having a good old time down at the shore. And then at some point for some of us, age occurs and we do just that and really begin to think about what liberty and freedom means both for us today and what it meant back then to proclaim it in such a fashion. It’s still fun but at times, it’s bittersweet. This is one of those times.
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.
Sometimes I think it’s bittersweet because this freedom we cherish and boast of is made up of something more ideal than doctrine. Consider that while Jefferson and company were penning the words, the Free states already weren’t living up to them. It’s not an outright lie, really; it’s more akin to wishful thinking than an actual plan seen to full implementation. You know what they say. It all looks good on paper. Since then though, it’s a potential that casually eludes us, the final stages of our peaceful development staying just out of the reach of our citizenry. And it’s this failure to live up to the potential our forefathers saw in us that costs us.
This year’s bill has been high-Orlando, Bangladesh, Iraq and Turkey-and the years not over yet. It’s times like these when the cost is high that I think of what the nuns used to tell us in Civics class; about how freedom didn’t come easy and that you had to work at it. They were right; Democracy’s a bitch and isn’t easy by any means.
That’s because democracy breeds tolerance and demands sacrifice. It forces us to consider the man or woman next to us and how they’re living and whether or not we can do anything to help. Its principles are based on fair play, generosity and altruism; three states of being that can go counter to man’s baser instincts of self-preservation. Yet, it’s something we must continue to work on.
So as this holiday ends and folks make it back to their homes safely, let’s remember what it is that really and truly makes us great; and that is that we continue to try. Instead of thumping our chests with exclamations of making America great again, like we’ve arrived at some decency saturation point, let’s not forget that the country is still a work in-progress-just like we are-and make up our minds to work at becoming that for-real land of the truly free. It’s what they ultimately saw in us way back then.