Today we mark Independence Day — the day our forefathers made the bold decision to break away from England and create a new country where freedom reigns instead of a king.
Try to imagine what our lives would be like if they hadn’t been brave enough — and rebellious enough — to pursue that vision.
We should consider how fortunate we are that their efforts prevailed and led to the formation of the United States of America — a country founded on principles that were unheard of 241 years ago when Thomas Jefferson brilliantly penned the Declaration of Independence:
“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.”
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These words mean as much now as when they were first written.
The Declaration was officially adopted on July 4, 1776 by the Continental Congress, which is the event we celebrate today.
To further underscore individual freedom, Congress later passed the Bill of Rights, which contains the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. These primarily are meant to protect citizens from government and the will of the majority.
For all our incessant complaining about Congress, President Donald Trump, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, federal bureaucracy, the press, the rich, the poor, and on and on — we should take a moment today to be thankful we live in a country where we have the protected, governmental right to speak our minds.
Although lately, that seems to becoming more of a challenge in the public arena.
The ugliness and rancor from last year’s presidential election has, unfortunately, not dissipated. Before the ballots were counted, we asked people to remember that the person who disagrees with you – or who votes differently than you — is not your enemy.
This reasonable sentiment appears to still be lost in many public arenas, and it needs to return.
Perhaps social media is a factor. It makes it too easy to give knee-jerk, judgmental reactions to complex issues. Thoughtful comments don’t always get the attention they deserve when snarky comments take over discussions.
Civil discourse continues to be squelched by political correctness, angry mobs, Internet vitriol and protests on college campuses, including in June at the Evergreen State College in Olympia.
The most devastating example came last month when a man seemingly bent on killing Republican politicians went on a shooting spree in Virginia as members of Congress practiced for a charity baseball game.
On that day, at least, the partisan divide closed for a while. But it should not take a shooting for us to come together.
There is nothing wrong with citizens publicly venting frustration at government policies. In fact, it’s healthy. However, the debate should be conducted with respect. Certain voices should not be shut down because someone else doesn’t like what is being said.
So today, as we enjoy our Fourth of July holiday with family, fireworks and outdoor grilling, let’s take some time to be grateful for our freedoms and acknowledge how fortunate we are to live in a country we can both love and complain about. Not everyone in the world is so lucky.