It’s the Fourth of July. Independence Day. Americans’ most favorite patriotic holiday of the year. Hot dogs and cookouts and beer and brats and burgers — and in our locale, margaritas and pina coladas! Flags everywhere – on homes, on street lights, proudly flying from four-wheel drive truck beds – and little flags too, tucked into lawns by Realtors farming their various real estate turf.
And fireworks! Once fired into the sky to remember the experience of the “bombs bursting in air” – now we’ve got giant gargantuan fireworks shows essentially for “Fireworks Day.” Somewhat like “Turkey Day” and “Santa Claus Day” but with fire risk! From tiny sparklers to smoke bombs to the professional pyrotechnics – part of Independence Day has been lost to a secular celebration of bright lights, big bangs and, beer and burgers.
But way back in 1776 and the Revolutionary War, those bangs and blasts and fire and fury were real. The blood and guts and sacrifice and eternal pain were indeed the prices of freedom we now enjoy. These must be studied, remembered, and honored. Incredibly brave men and women defying what was then the greatest military power on Earth. And they pulled it off and here we are today!
We should understand that these same men and women were considered the traitors of their time. England surely thought them even terrorists, with their trickery and breach of battlefield norms. Folks from many lands had immigrated to the American continent fleeing religious, economic and social strife and upheaval. Some were enslaved and forced here against their will – and imagine being chained to the hull of a slave ship as merchandise for sale. Over all these, England ruled and we were her subjects and had to be subdued.
England had colonized the whole bunch of us who’d found our way here and we were hers by rights and laws. We’d stolen most of the American natives’ land, bought some of it, and the whole place and all its people were England’s.
That is, until we became revolutionaries and defied reigning power and law. Our founders were the bad guys of their time, and bad-ass brave to attempt what they attempted.
Through unimaginable courage, intrigue, ingenuity and resilience, brilliant and brave men established our independence and created what became indisputably the greatest nation on Earth.
“America: The Greatest Nation on Earth.” Let that sink in. We’re above all others. That became our history and it is our current heritage. And we’d better respect and honor and promote that remarkable mantle.
Let freedom ring! Grant all of us the fair and equal pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Let us live and reign in peace and prosperity with liberty and justice to all. And today, during all the rancor over immigration, let us remember the quote on our most important monument, the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Today is Independence Day! Indeed, let freedom ring with liberty and justice for all. Let us be a lamp beside a golden door!
And the beer and the burgers and dogs and fireworks (where legal) should all be part of the happy mix of the happy creation of a nation that our founders fought to establish! This is a party. It is a celebration.
But there’s a catch to all this:
Freedom isn’t free. We’re told this when politicians justify the next economic war. But the price of freedom surely isn’t just America’s continued militancy.
The real and true day-to-day price of freedom is eternal vigilance to what our founders founded. To demand fair and open democracy. To insist on justice – legal, social, economic. To insist on upholding all our liberties – and to fight back against their erosion by overreaching politics, parties, politicians, police and corporations. There’s big money to be made in liberty abuse and by George (Washington), we had better be vigilant in protecting what George himself established.
When we stand up for justice, when we insist defiantly for liberty, even to the point of marches, protests and court battles – we’re not enemies of the state or fake news or trouble makers any more than George Washington or Jefferson, or Adams, Franklin, or Hamilton were. Insisting on justice, fighting tooth and nail for liberty, is how we in deed, honor our founders.
In the end, the Fourth of July is not only a celebratory party. It should be a time for national introspection. “What would George Washington think of us now?” How would he or Hamilton or Franklin think of our policies today? Our laws, our tussle over civil and personal rights? Our wars? Our immigration policies? Are we still building a country that reflects their intentions?
And have we corrected their oversights, their shortcomings, in areas of equality, social justice, and treatment of American natives?
Happy Independence Day! So much thanks and gratitude to our brave and incredible founding fathers. And may we honor them with our commitment to true freedom and true justice and expansive liberty over the whole land!
Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column, “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.