Independence Day celebrations will look different this year but that doesn’t change our responsibility to recognize the sacrifices that allow us to live in America. The men who argued and hammered out the precepts on which the new nation would be based did it at great risk. Their lives and businesses were at stake for daring to set forth such heresy. Many of them died broke, or lived as outcasts, because of their beliefs. They were imperfect human beings, creating a template for all of us imperfect human beings who would live under the banner of freedom. Mistakes were made; corrections were made, and the America we know today is still making mistakes and arguing about corrections.
It’s true that all men were created equal. Equally true that all men are not treated equally, and most women, not that long ago, were excluded totally from the notion of equality. That change came slowly and painfully, as change nearly always does.
My sixth-grade teacher’s reply to any student who wailed that something wasn’t fair was, “Life isn’t fair.” But she was also big on equality and freedom. When someone claimed the right to do as they pleased, she said, “Your freedom ends where another person’s nose begins.”
As youngsters, my friends and I often argued over some detail and occasionally someone yelled, “You’re not the boss of me!” But none of us would have ever said that to an adult, whether or not said adult was a family member or authority figure. Presently, a lot of adults are proclaiming that message to almost everyone they encounter. That change was probably gradual in coming but it’s painful to observe, and unhelpful to anyone.
But this is America, and because of the imperfect humans who set forth the parameters of our future, we have the right to speak disrespectfully and act in ways that hamper the ability of others to live freely. We also have the right to be kind, to offer a helping hand, to examine our own lives and decide whether our actions match what we claim to believe.
For the past few months, we have gotten a small taste of having our freedom restricted. We’re relieved that some of the rules are being relaxed, but a lot of us refuse to take responsibility for our own safety and that of others. For now, we get to experience a semblance of the normalcy we took for granted, but that can be taken away in a matter of moments if we abuse it. The same is true of our national freedoms.
You may not like wearing a mask, washing everything that enters your home, and staying away from events. You’re free to complain, or disregard these suggestions, and free to experience any consequences of your choices. Each of us gets to evaluate the situations we encounter and make thoughtful decisions. Stay home or go out. Celebrate the holiday with friends or alone.
People are free to shout that America is a corrupt and terrible place to live, to demonstrate and march, and stir up hate and discontent. Those words and actions do nothing to make America better. And why, if our nation is so terrible, are thousands of people stepping over one another to come here?
Let’s celebrate freedom differently this year. At home in the backyard, or out at an event, let’s be part of a peaceful solution to problems created by imperfect human beings.