Independence Day – the day that we celebrate our nation’s liberty.
We celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence each year on July 4th with fireworks, picnics, parades and parties. Communities gather to celebrate together, as ours will on Wednesday with a parade, fireworks and many community gatherings.
I’m reminded of a 4th of July I experienced while in my teens. I was on a study abroad trip, staying in an old German castle. Very scenic. Very disorienting to be abroad for the 4th of July. Once the group realized that no one else was going to put on a 4th of July celebration for a bunch of American teenagers, the process of crafting our own celebration began.
Patriotism in the early 70’s was not as popular as it is now and teenagers can be a cynical lot. So, the fact that this group felt something would be amiss if they didn’t celebrate the 4th of July was note-worthy. The celebration that resulted is not nearly as important as the fact that a couple dozen teens hailing from Minnesota, Texas and Illinois, felt the need to mark Independence Day and probably, for the first time in their lives, take ownership of their status as Americans. It was likely the first time they had contemplated what freedom in America meant.
Which made for a somber group a few weeks later as we rode a train through then East Germany toward West Berlin. The usual wisecracks died as we watched somber faced East German guards with dogs search the train, asking for our papers at the borders. And later when we stood before a tall gray wall topped with razor wire in Berlin and saw the photos of those who died trying to reach the freedom of the West, the concept of American freedom became clearer.
A reminder of how Americans often take their freedom for granted.
Americans complain about government subsidies on grain or fluoride in water. Citizens of some African nations die from lack of safe food and water.
Americans complain about government intrusion in their lives. Citizens of some countries live in fear of their own government’s soldiers who burst into homes in the middle of the night.
Americans complain about Spanish language ballots. Citizens of Syria are risking their lives for the opportunity to vote.
It’s good for us as Americans to pause and contemplate what a precious treasure our freedom is.
And how we all share this freedom with our fellow Americans. All of them. Even those we disagree with. Even those citizens who speak languages other than English.
Patriotism is defined as the love of country. Sadly, in the current political climate, patriotism has become just another weapon in the political arena.
I have to assume that the pollsters must be able to confirm that accusing your opponent of lacking patriotism or not loving the Constitution enough is an effective campaign tool. It must be effective because I hear it all the time. It’s such a common gambit that it’s become comical and sad.
"We are the true patriots!” "We love our country more than they do!” "Those guys are trying to subvert this great country!” Elect us!
Do not confuse this with true patriotism, this is political campaigning and it’s despicable that there are those that would call a political opponent’s love of country into question.
Just because they hold a different view, belong to a different political party, hold different opinions on solutions to our nation’s problem does not mean they love their country any less.
We are the United States of America.
Are we united?
Or are we divided by political rhetoric?
Do you stand in respect for the Stars and Stripes but look down at those who voted for somebody else?
Do you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but scoff at the opinions of your neighbors?
Do you pray for those in harm’s way wearing the service uniforms of the United States, but want to deny citizenship to their families?
It’s time that we recognized patriotism as a glue that can bind us together, not a wedge to pry us apart.
There’s no shortage of Americans who can tell you what’s wrong with this country. Whining about America’s problems, while it might seem to be our national sport, is not patriotic.
A patriot is willing to recognize America’s problems and will work to solve them by using the most powerful and feared weapon at our disposal, the ballot box.
And once the ballots have been counted, win or lose, a patriot works with those who hold differing opinions to find the solutions together. That is how this great country was built.
If the loser in an election focuses on defeating the ideas and efforts of the winner, the choice of the voters, how is he a patriot? He is countermanding the will of the voters, which does not sound patriotic to me.
Unless we can find a way to work together after elections, between elections, we are doomed to more of the national stagnation we’ve endured recently.
We have to find a way to work together.
This Independence Day is a good day to recognize that we all love our country and want what’s best for it.
Let’s work with all our fellow patriots and find a way forward.
Happy Independence Day!