The true meaning of Independence Day

Last year, I attended a party on the Fourth of July. To celebrate the occasion I thought I would print copies of the Declaration of Independence and pass them out. As the reason for the holiday, thus the party, was to celebrate Independence Day, I thought that most everyone would like to take a few minutes to read the document that started the movement that was being honored. I couldn’t have been more mistaken.

A few people accepted the paper, most hesitantly. The majority just refused to take a copy, holding up their hand or responding with a perfunctory “No thanks.” One person actually said, “I don’t want to read that crap. This is supposed to be a party”.

To refer to the Declaration as crap, what have we become? This was a group of what I had previously considered typical patriotic Americans. I assumed that most everyone understood and appreciated what was being celebrated. Until recently, it had been years since I read the Declaration and I gained a renewed appreciation for the sacrifice conveyed in those words. All I wanted to do was to give others the opportunity to experience the emotions that envelop me when I read Thomas Jefferson’s work.

While I understand that not everyone approaches these issues with the same zeal that I do, I had no idea that I would confront such animosity for merely offering the opportunity to read the document that enables us to ignore its very existence, although I find it inconceivable anyone would choose to do so. When did giving a few minutes of our precious party time to pay homage to the patriots that sacrificed so much that we might enjoy the freedom to get together with family and friends become offensive?

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause. What kind of men were they?

Five signers were captured by the British and in each case experienced brutal treatment and torture.

Several voluntarily gave all their personal possessions and wealth to finance the war. Twelve signers had their homes burned to the ground. Seventeen lost everything they owned.

Two lost their sons fighting the war, another had two sons captured and imprisoned experiencing deplorable conditions on the British prison ships.

All were at one time the victims of manhunts. John Hart was driven from his wife’s deathbed by the oncoming British army. His fields and his gristmill were burned. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves. By the time he was able to return, his wife was dead and his 13 children vanished. He was gravely ill from his ordeal and died before ever seeing his children again.

And we cannot honor these men on the day set aside to do just that?

Has the public education system finally succeeded in convincing people that the founding documents are so flawed that our only resort is to ignore them? Founding Father bashing has become a national pastime. We have lost all appreciation for what we have, for what the Founders enable us to have.

Have we become so involved with sports, reality TV and social media that the appreciation of freedom is no longer a priority? We spend more time weekly watching mindless garbage on TV than we spend during our entire lives contemplating how lucky we are to live in the country created by the sacrifices of the Founders.

Is it a function of the fact that most of us have never lived in a time when our country was threatened by forces that could destroy our way of life? Our parents and grandparents, who experienced the world wars, had a far greater appreciation for our freedoms than we do.

Is it a remnant of the fact that the wars most of us have personal knowledge were never a threat to our liberty and even when we lose a war, like Vietnam, it had little effect on those of us who weren’t sent there to fight?

I think it is probably a combination of all of the above.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.”

In other words, it is the responsibility of the current generation to ensure the freedom we received from past generations remains intact for future generations.

When you examine the size, power, and intrusiveness of the government how are we doing maintaining the freedom our ancestors bequeathed to us. Every law, every regulation, every tax is a little bit of our freedom lost. As John Adams stated, “Liberty once lost is lost forever.” Let us hope he was mistaken.

Please take a few minutes this Independence Day to remember and honor those who gave so much so that we can have so much and to contemplate what we are allowing our government to do to us. We need a renewed declaration of independence from the current governmental overreach as we are today far more under the control of our government than the colonists were under the control of the British.

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