Saturday will mark the “Fourth of July.” It conjures images of family picnics, backyard bbq’s, beaches, lakes and, of course, fireworks.
For too long, many have forgotten the true meaning of this celebration: our independence. Historian Samuel Eliot Morrison wrote, “If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence it would have been worthwhile.”
As we approach July 4th and celebrate our nation’s independence, it is time for us all to pause and remind ourselves what this freedom means.
The Declaration of Independence was written in part as a statement on where government and political authority derive their legitimacy, through the sovereignty of the people. If you take the time to read the document, you might find the exceptional phrases of the documents create a powerful synthesis of views, dogmas and theories.
Among them, all men have a right to liberty as they are by nature equal. This is to say, none are inherently superior and deserve to rule, nor are they inferior and deserve to be ruled. I’m reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”
The purpose of our democracy is to secure and retain certain fundamental rights. And while governments should not be altered for inconsequential reasons, the people retain the right to revise or in some instances abolish their government when it becomes destructive to the will of the people.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that a democratic society is one that must keep “eternal vigilance.” Some days, according to my Twitter account, our government and its leaders, no matter their political persuasion, are under attack. Those who serve in government, from elected leaders, staff members, interns, government workers of all stripes, deserve our respect.
The often ad hominem attacks on those who serve in government is “eternal vigilance” run amok. And those who serve must equally respect the dignity of those whom they serve.
Indeed, our democratic society requires many people to exert great effort to sustain it. The price of our freedom comes at a great cost. It did 238 years ago and it still does today.
It requires each of us to not cower when called upon to rally in support of the common good. We must strive to show valor in times of adversity.
On Independence Day we will once again stand together as a nation to celebrate the freedom we possess. We cannot afford to view this freedom as a “destination,” an ideal conquered and perfected. Our vigilance must be perpetual.
We must be prepared to defend our freedom time and time again. All the while we must show reverence and respect to others, especially to those who have contrasting points of view to our own.
The rights we bear witness to are unalienable and cannot be given away or surrendered. The governmental powers in existence derive their legitimacy from the people.
On Independence Day — and every day — Americans should remember and celebrate the Declaration’s timeless expression of our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We should call to mind with reverence and respect those who pledge their lives, liberty, and honor to uphold these truths. The march of liberty continues to this day; let us never forget our collective independence.
Kevin Sweeny created and elucidated his first poll for the ’76 presidential election and has been involved in politics (and other things) ever since. He lives on the beach on the east coast with his alluring wife and beleaguered cat. You can follow him on twitter @djmia00.