It's taken me a long time to really appreciate July 4th for what it is: the celebration of the evolution of freedom as we know it in this country. This struck me as I had to explain to Peanut what Independence Day was all about this week when she told me that we celebrate July 4th because of the fireworks....nope, I had to tell her, we have the fireworks because of July 4th. I did my best to explain to her about the Declaration of Independence and how our country was "born," ensuring her that we really do get along with England despite our differences back then. She compared the Declaration of Independence to when she grows up, leaves for college and is finally "the boss of her" to use her own words. Yes, I told her, that will be something like your declaration of independenced (although in the back of my mind I was thinking that that declaration will come far sooner than age-18-and-off-to-college with this particular child).
Indulge me in a rare divergence from mommy-blogging to explore my revelations about Independence Day a little more....
Familiar words from the Declaration of Independence:
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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness
I think it does us all well to remember these words, put to paper so many years ago in circumstances so different from today, yet whose meaning is still so relevant.
On this independence day, I am aware of my liberties: my power of choice regarding what kind of job I will have, where I will live, how my chldren will be raised, the books I read, the company I keep. Too often, I take this for granted.
I am aware of the happiness that I am able to seek simply becuase I am fortunate enough to live where I live.
I am aware of what the freedom my family and I enjoy has cost--cost United States soldiers and their families as well as so many unnamed faces, families and cultures abroad.
In remembering the many, many individuals who have dedicated themselves over the course of the last 200+ years to serving this country as leaders, as soldiers, as activists, as politicians and as private citizens, I remember that patriotism comes in all shapes and sizes.
Too often in past years those who question our government are told they are unpatriotic. I would argue that the most patriotic thing you can do is to question those who lead you. That in demanding that they be accountable to their decisions and have solid answers for their actions we are merely ensuring those in charge are responsible in exercising their power over freedom and liberty.
Where would this country be if that brave congress made up of ordinary citizens inspired to help shape a new tomorrow had not questioned the actions of their government 233 years ago? Their actions should spur us on to reflect on freedom and liberty....
Honor your freedom by helping someone else attain more of it, but not at the cost of someone else's. Acknowledge your liberty by exercising it wisely--don't waste it--make the most of the opportunities you are fortunate to have in your life, simply because you are a citizen of the United States of America.
I think Independence Day will always have a little more meaning to me now--it will be a day to reflect on how I am using my liberty and freedom to not only pursue my own happiness, but how am I helping others do the same?
Thanks for indulging me....mommy-blogging hat back in place!