Today is Independence Day in the United States of America. I'm not sure I've ever called it 'Independence Day' before; usually we all just refer to it as 'the fourth of July' or 'July 4th'. But the date has little to do with what should be THE most important holiday in this country. Just like calling Christmas "X-mas", calling Independence Day by its calendar date takes the whole point of its existence away. And to be honest, how many of us celebrate, or even think about, the point of this holiday's existence?
Here is the preamble (first two paragraphs) of the Declaration of Independence in its entirety:
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."
Have you ever actually read the entire thing? I hadn't, until today. And I had no idea that the next part of the Declaration goes on to list very specifically the "repeated injuries and usurpations" that King George had inflicted on the colonies. (It's far worse then just taxation without representation; if our government tried pulling that crap on us today, we'd be impeaching them at this moment.)
Finally, this paragraph declares that we are no longer subject to England's rule, but are now a free and independent people:
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
It would have taken guts to sign this document; if they had lost the war, those men would all have been hanged for treason from the highest point King George could find.
Now, here is my real reason for this post. How many of us actually THINK about why we celebrate this day? How important is this country's independence to you? Here are some of the things that are important to me for which I am grateful for on this day:
~Freedom of speech, both oral and written - We can say and print pretty much anything we want in this country, other than inciting to riot or threatening people's lives; I understand they still can't do that in Britain.
~Freedom of (and from) religion - We don't have a state religion, and we can choose to join any religion we wish; we can also choose to leave a church, and to not be affiliated with any religion, if we wish. (There are those who would like to change this, but so far they have not succeeded.)
~We are not and cannot be forced to join the military, unless Congress votes to open the draft, which would only happen in a wartime situation, and perhaps not even then.
~ALL citizens 18 years and older have the right to vote for our political leaders. We also have the right to refuse to vote without penalty.
~We have the right to join (or not join) any political party.
~We elect most of our nation's leaders, including the president, and no one person is allowed to lead this country for more than eight consecutive years. We can also move to have them removed from office earlier if we feel it in the country's best interests to do so.
~While our justice system is by no means perfect, we do have the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty by a jury of our peers, and we cannot be imprisoned without legal representation or held without trial.
~For those of us who choose to follow alternative lifestyles, we have the right to do so without being harassed or arrested, and if we are fired from our jobs or otherwise assaulted because of it, we have the right to seek justice and restitution in the courts. (Again, it's not a perfect system, but it's better than most.)
Too many of us have forgotten what Independence Day represents for our country. It's not just about picnics and store sales and fireworks and a day off from work. A lot of people fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today, including women, children, and men not enlisted in the military, and we should NEVER take those freedoms for granted. If they were ever taken away from us, this would no longer be a country worth living in.
Happy Independence Day!!!