(Dear readers, thank you for checking in on my blog on July 4th expecting to see some thoughts on the day. Your inquiries inspired me to write this one. Although the 4th of July has come and gone, my sentiments do remain the same.)There are few American National Holidays that we celebrate as a nation, but none as powerful as the 4th of July that commemorates the birth of an independent nation. It is a celebration of pride in a country that has captured, in the first sentence of paragraph two of the Declaration of Independence, the essence that enshrines Life, Liberty and Happiness: 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.
It is among the greatest sentences ever written regarding what a civil government exists to preserve and protect. Every human being has God-given rights to live, to be free, and to pursue her/his happiness.
We are a society that prizes freedom, proof of which many of us came to this country because of her offer of Liberty, one for which many men and women have fought and died. That same fight for liberty and freedom is not always country against country or foe, but often within ourselves. Freedom requires sacrifice and understanding that certain rules are necessary to create a society in which people of different skills and ideas work together in mutually beneficial exchanges. A free society is not one where people are free to do as they wish at the expense of infringing on or harming someone else’s rights. A mature, learned, advanced society where “man” is a rational and moral being, is one where we freely elect to exercise our reason in the name of choosing well. We may not be responsible for the actions of our fellow citizens, but we are responsible for our own actions, and as citizens of this free nation, we must hold ourselves accountable when we abuse our freedom rights. Freedom of life and the pursuit of happiness is a complicated right that requires tolerance from all sides, a tolerance that is often lacking…as witnessed by national tragedies of flawed misinterpretations of the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment.
The system of government clearly places liberty at the center of its concern. Ideally, government “shall” enforce the law only to protect that freedom…the freedom of the fundamentalist and the atheist, the female and the male, the child and adult, the Black and Caucasian, the Asian and Hispanic, the islander and the mainlander, the majority and minority groups, the gay and the straight. I find it troubling that despite the battles fought in the past, there are many wars still being waged on the liberty of others today.
I find it troubling that the true meaning of liberty and freedom is not self-evident by the masses. I find it troubling that we claim to be a more advanced society yet we confuse our inalienable right to freedom with the First Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. As a society, we don’t seem to be willing to respect a wider range of ideas under the umbrella of freedom, especially when those views may cross the line of our personal beliefs. “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. (Thomas Jefferson)
I find it troubling that too many people blame government rule for our social problems when these problems have been created as a result of the people themselves exercising irresponsibly the constitutional rights granted them in our founding documents. I find it troubling that we don’t take responsibility for our own actions and are obsessed with quickly finding out whose “fault” things are, and who we can blame.
I find it troubling that our religious or otherwise beliefs continue to distort our ability to see things clearly. We are free to “worship” according to our conscience. Everybody worships. Even the atheist. The only difference is who or what we worship…God, Allah, Jehovah, Noble Truths, Wiccan, Body, Material, Self… Freedom to worship or not to worship according to our conscience is an inalienable right.
We should all be deeply thankful, “endowed by” the “Creator” for our inalienable rights in the United States. Even with its sometimes tragic flaws, we should never lose sight of the freedoms we enjoy in this great Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.