Happy 4th of July, everyone!
My kids are finally old enough to start asking questions about the 4th of July and getting into the patriotic spirit of the holiday. They got their first flags, watched fireworks for the first time that they could start to appreciate, and listened for all of 30 seconds while I tried to teach them The Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful. Yankee Doodle proved far more entertaining for them.
Kids add a certain something to holidays. They ask questions. And they don’t stick with the usual questions an adult would ask, like, “When is dinner going to be ready?” or “You gonna turn on the game?” Kids ask questions that really make you think about why we do things. Through their questions and innocent fascination, we’re forced to get back in touch with what these days are about and all that goes into them.
When I really thought about the 4th, I kept coming back to the same truth: as much as this day is a celebration of our country and our freedoms, it is also a day of honoring and remembering those who sacrificed long ago and now to give us something to celebrate about. On this day, we remember those who fought and died to bring our country into existence and grant us the freedoms we now enjoy. We remember those who have sacrificed over the last two centuries to maintain those freedoms. And we look at where we are and where we are headed.
Every person in the U.S., I’m sure, can point to a whole mess of problems with this country. Certainly, we have problems. We’ve always had them in some form or another. But in the midst of arguing and struggling with our current fears, concerns, and dreams for this country, we can all too easily forget the core of what makes and has always made us great.
Our country was built by outcasts, rebels, criminals, opportunists, and visionaries. What we have, we made with our blood and sweat and with always an eye toward making life better. We have fought some of the bitterest wars in history, been at each other’s throats, brother against brother, all for one purpose: to make our country and the country of our children into something great.
So today, when your thoughts and your conversation turns to the current state of The United States of America, don’t just look at our problems or your opinions about what is right for us or how wrong and vile those who hold opinions counter to yours are. Remember that the reason you can have those conversations, the reason you can fight and bicker with each other, the reason you are allowed to live the way you do is because someone fought and died for you. Someone gave up their life, their future, their children, their hope of enjoying any of the benefits you now enjoy, and they did it for people like you. You are allowed to call your neighbor a complete idiot, you are allowed to tell your congressman that you think he’s running our country into the dirt, you are allowed to worship or not as you wish, to gather together in protest, to pursue whatever might make you happy, to live as you do and to reach for better because someone, many someones, lay in their blood on a field of horror so that you might be free.
Honor them today by remembering them, by showing respect and gratitude to those who still risk their lives for you, and by appreciating the freedom they have given you.
What do you love about this country?