The Fourth of July; Independence Day. We celebrate under dependably glorious skies, host parades, savor the best of traditional barbecue food and look forward with great anticipation to an unobstructed view of the bursting noise and color in the night sky of the fourth. Every flash of fireworks another symbol exploding in celebration of our freedom.
The day is rich in symbolism–It’s in the wind that holds up the stars and stripes as they flutter in the breeze. It’s the tear that follows a swell in the chest when “God Bless America” is sung. Such symbols lead our thoughts to remember how many lives were lost and how much suffering was endured to protect our national symbol. And lest we not forget how much blood has been spilled in defense of the parchment document bearing 56 signatures, dubbed the Declaration of Independence signed on the fourth of July, 1776.
It was also on that day that one of the signers, John Adams spoke the prophetically eerie words, “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.”
For a holiday that conjures up visions of parties and laughter and celebration, the roots of such celebration more seriously considered would likely conjure up a far less casual connotation. But let’s face it, most of us don’t spend a great deal of our time thinking about where America is in respect to the rest of the world around us; we are so busy with everything we do that we overlook the freedom that is responsible for us being able to do whatever it is that we do.
Everyday we can pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV or radio and hear the horrors going on around us in other countries, worlds away, where there are no celebrations to mark independence from tyranny. Citizens in these lands have no human rights, they are oppressed, perhaps they wonder what it might be like to be an American, to be reading about such plight instead of living it.
We as Americans are sickened by such truths and often extend a helping hand. Surely their situation should be enough to inspire thankfulness for our freedom, for our life, still it escapes up sometimes.
But thankfully, on the Fourth of July, it’s inescapable. It’s a day on which we can’t help counting blessings– the freedom we enjoy and how lucky we are to live in a country where the greatest of dreams are possible. We remember the greatness that we are a part of. And we remember that in addition to the celebration goes thought—thought about what each of us can do to honor and preserve the freedoms our forefathers established and fought for.
July 4 is a day of stark contrasts and revealing truths. It remains an opportunity to celebrate with friends, family and fellow Americans while it also sets the stage for solemn remembrance. The celebration of the day speaks to people in other nations, across the globe. To some it delivers a message of resounding commitment—our privileges, our inalienable rights—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness– will never be stripped from us, no matter how challenging an obstacle we encounter in their defense.
To others we extend an invitation. On the day we celebrate our freedom, honor the founding fathers, salute our flag and quietly take in the wave of chills that crosses our flesh from one sort of patriotic inspiration or another, we invite the suffering and the oppressed: look at us, learn from us, follow our example. Although you are being crushed and tortured, tyranny and injustice ruling your world, see us through your strife. See the United States of America, as it is, a beacon of freedom.
And once again recall with us the words of John Adams, “… through all the gloom …I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.”