Freedom: Our oh so fragile freedom

July 2, 2017

On July 3rd, 1776 John Adams wrote a letter to his beloved Abigail and expressed with great fervor: “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America….It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

And who could blame him? The day before the 2nd Continental Congress had finally approved Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee’s June 7th resolution stating in part 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.”

On that day, at that time, it was the most monumental decision Adam’s could imagine. And then the sun rose on July 4th 1776, Thomas Jefferson would present his “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.” and July 2nd was forever replaced with July 4th.

But the founding fathers didn’t just have the audacity to declare the “thirteen United States of America” to be independent from the greatest military power in the world at that time, no they had the nerve to declare that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”

Or to put it another way, those brave men in Philadelphia that summer of 1776 were the original radical right wingers who just didn’t know what was good for them. How dare they revolt against the government that had granted them so much? How dare they claim that the individual, not the government was the rightful owner of political power?

And we should never forget that each and every one of those radicals if caught by soldiers or loyalists to the crown risked being summarily shot or hanged on the spot.

Which is why for me personally, the most moving phrase in Jefferson’s masterful Declaration is not the opening but in the ending: “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. “

Yes by today’s standards they were privileged white men, yet by the society of their time they were patriots to the cause and traitors to the crown. We are living today the future that those favored few, and every generation since has fought and died for.

And I guarantee you that they did not fight for that independence just so we could replace it with dependence on D.C. today.  Freedom does not come with a perpetual guarantee.

Or as Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it when he addressed the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce on March 30, 1961:

“Our Founding Fathers, here in this country, brought about the only true revolution that has ever taken place in man’s history…only here did that little band of men so advanced beyond their time that the world has never seen their like since, evolve the idea that you and I have within ourselves the God-given right and the ability to determine our own destiny. But freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well thought lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same. And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

And so it is, on this 241st anniversary of the founding of that great ideal, an ideal that has liberated more, fed more, lifted more out of poverty than any other nation in the recorded history of this planet that I  humbly leave you with a simple: God Bless the United States of America.

PUBLISHER NOTE:  A version of this column first appeared in the July 2, 2017 print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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