It's funny how we almost always call this upcoming holiday just "the fourth of July"; rarely, if ever, do we refer to it as Independence Day. I'm not sure if that's because we are more interested in fireworks, picnics, and getting the day off work, or if we just don't remember what this day is actually celebrating. But we should remember; we NEED to remember. Because those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
So today I'd like to remind all of us of what the Revolutionary Wars, also called the Wars for Independence, won for us, and what we should be celebrating on this and every Independence Day...
1. Our freedom of religion. This includes freedom from religion as well. No one, including the government or any religious group, has the right to persecute or discriminate against anyone for their religious beliefs OR because they do not believe in any god.
2. Our freedom of speech. This includes being able to criticize government and religious leaders, both verbally and in writing, as long as we don't threaten them with bodily harm. I was shocked recently to find out from one of my friends across the pond in Great Britain that they still don't have nearly as much freedom of speech as we have.
"I may not believe in what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ~Voltaire
3. Our freedom to assemble. In some countries, people aren't allowed to gather in large groups unless it's government sanctioned. It's amazing to think that one could actually be arrested and jailed for gathering in front of a building or in a park to protest or have a meeting, but there are places where it's against the law.
4. Our right to vote, and our right to have differing political parties we can publically affiliate ourselves with. The people in so many countries have no choice in leadership; instead they have a dictator, who appoints all the other leaders. Or they may have elections, but there is only one "approved" candidate for each position. And if there are actually multiple political parties, it is sometimes very dangerous to be affiliated with any other than the major one.
In way too many countries, riots break out and the military takes over when the leader dies or is removed from office. Egypt is still in turmoil over two years after they ousted their previous president; they just ousted a second one, and once again the military has taken over the country. When President Kennedy was assasinated in 1963, my mom says that "the whole world was watching" to see how the people of the United States would react. However, the U.S. astonished the world by NOT falling apart or going out of control. Instead, our elected political hierarchy worked the way it was supposed to; the Vice President took over, everyone moved to fill the appropriate empty places, there was little or no rioting in most places, and our country continued to function fairly normally. The same thing happened when President Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment in 1974.
5. Our right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, our right to legal representation, and our right to a fair and speedy trial. If you think these are rights in most countries, think again. Even in some first world countries, you can be imprisoned without being charged, and without recourse to legal representation, for however long the authorities choose.
6. Freedom of music and dress. With the exception of public nudity and explicit sexual acts, most forms of music and dress are legal in the U.S., both in public and in private. As members of an alternative subculture, this is definitely one for us to be grateful for.
There are a lot more freedoms that we have, of course, but these are the ones I think about the most, especially when so many other countries are experiencing national chaos. I hope you will think about them, too, and remember those who fought, those who died, and those who gave up their loved ones and their peaceful lives so that we could have them.
Happy Independence Day!