INDEPENDENCE DAY --- More than barbecued burgers & Fireworks
The Fourth of July was not always a long summer holiday weekend, when you could steal out of town, have the neighbors over for some barbecue & brew or be awed by the local fireworks display. There was a time, back in 1776, when July the 4th was just another summer day in the midst of the Revolutionary War that had begun in April of 1775. (It wouldn't be until the Peace Treaty of 1783 that the war for our independence would be over.) On that day, 58 men, who were representatives of the 13 colonies, agreed to a Declaration of political independence to form a new nation. President R. Reagan called this "an irretrievable act, and that the walls resounded with the words-treason, the gallows, the headsman's axe-and the issue remained in doubt....all to sire a nation that grew from sea to shining sea."
What exactly is the declaration of independence? It was a written dissent from the King of England, who had taxed the colonies without representation or consent. He'd cut off free trade from America to other parts of the world. Deprived the colonists of Trial by Jury. "For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments. For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever." In all, there are 32 articles or charges against the King, thereby giving the Continental Congress reason to declare independence from the rule of the British King. By this formal declaration the Congress created a new philosophy of government; one that was by the people & for the people. America would be self-governing; allowing EVERY MAN life-liberty & pursuit of happiness.
Revolutionary Thoughts -- Revolutionary Words in the midst of a bloody war, that the colonists were by & large losing. This document was no "magic bullet." All didn't become peace, love and acceptance upon the Declaration's drafting. In August of that year, 30,000 British troops arrived in New York harbor to begin the fight to subdue the American insurrection. What would ensue would be a long drawn-out war, first played out across the North and eventually spilling into the South. This war was fought by the brave; young & old that were poorly armed, clothed & fed. The former "colonists" would sacrifice their lands, their livelihoods, their husbands and sons, to eventually produce our nation.
At the risk of being "politically incorrect," I must point out that tens of thousands of lives were lost, blood shed for the sake of our freedom and this land that many take for granted. The soldiers and our infant government did not attempt to have a touchy-feely lovefest, trying to understand the British psyche. We didn't blame ourselves for bringing war upon our heads. When diplomacy failed, it was necessary to get down & dirty. Our new-born government also did not set a deadline for the conflict to end. War must run its course, as distasteful and sad as that may be. Freedom comes with a price. Often that price is paid with the lives of those attempting to make the changes.
How have we forgotten these realities? Have we become so settled in our comfortable little cocoons that we don't realize that the same is true today with the War On Terror. Iraqis, via their elections, are attempting to forge their own kind of government. There are factions (such as the Taliban), tribal leaders, some clerics and the insurgents that don't what Afghanistan or Iraq to come under the RULE OF THE PEOPLE. Most of the violence in Iraq is now perpetrated against those defending or attempting to forge this new independent government; in short, the people of Iraq. Not so different from 1776!
So Happy Independence Day! Enjoy that barbecue & those fireworks. But don't forget that the freedom you enjoy in your backyard today was hard won by the military that not only fought over two hundred fifty years ago but who continue to stand & guard us today. Really frame current events in the context of history & the larger picture of a safer nation.