As I scrolled through dozens of celebration photos and articles about our National birthday holiday on FB, and read the items in the local paper as diverse as one about how my home town has once again made a “best” list, this time for July 4th Fun, to a lengthy ad by a religious group with quotes from important men in our past, it occurred to me that for far too many, it’s only lip service.
I cannot claim that I have done much of anything to preserve what our forefathers created for us, even though I treasure the gift of freedom and independence. I fly my flag, I vote, I pray, and I support our soldiers, but I’ve never personally put anything on the line for the freedoms I enjoy. One blog I read pointed out that independence means NOT BEING DEPENDENT. That thought gave me pause. I collect Social Security. Does that make me dependent? Because I collect it, I also have a subsidy for my medical insurance - although I do still pay a monthly premium considerably in excess of any I ever paid while working. So, just how independent am I? Could or would I give up both should it become necessary to claim my independence?
Then there are my freedoms. Yes, I live in a country where I can read what is called the “free” press, but I’ve lived long enough and am well read enough to know that the press, the media so many in this country rely on for much of their news and understanding, is slanted so far in one direction it’s a wonder it doesn’t topple over on its face. So, I don’t rely on our media alone to figure out what’s going on in my world or my country. Perhaps that makes me a little independent. Thankfully, today there’s the internet where I can learn what’s going on from all points of view, everywhere in the world. Makes understanding things more balanced, but at the same time more frightening when I realize how many others around me do believe everything they read in our papers or see on TV.
I am, thankfully, allowed to worship as I wish, but even that is apparently not a guarantee. If you happen to be in the military, there are those who would like to make it unlawful for the military to allow prayer and even to remove the chaplain corps from our military completely. And there have been alarming reports of powerful people in our government making sure that Muslims are guaranteed their right to pray while at the same time curtailing the rights of Christians. I have no argument with the former, but I am dismayed by the latter. Our government, our entire Nation even, was founded on the right to choose how we pray, where and when and to whom. Why should a small percentage of those who choose NOT to believe be allowed to tell me that I have to sneak off to some private place to do so lest I offend them? I am offended by the very notion that I am not free to worship as I wish. If we as a nation are not offended by this encroachment then we will surely lose our right to freedom of religion because those who wage this war want us to be a nation free FROM religion.
I own a gun, but there are restrictions on where I can take it. I have an income (separate from Social Security) but there are limits on how I can use it and on how much I can keep. I am free to travel, but should I wish to do so by air, I must remove my shoes. let my body be scanned and leave my trusty Swiss Army knife at home. There are lots of freedoms that were once enjoyed without limit in this country that are slowly but surely being curtailed, taxed or legislated away.
It occurs to me to wonder what such men as John Adams or George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and so many others who we so often quote when discussing freedom and independence would think of the country we have become today. Among other things, they based our government on the sure knowledge that a moral Christian constituency was a given, and yet every vestige of morality and faith has been systematically removed from our schools and public life. I think they would be appalled.
Years ago, late on a hot summer night in our Nation’s capital, my daughter and I came upon a simple fountain made up of three columns of water gushing out of the ground. If there was a dedication plaque, it was dark and we didn’t see it, but it was still hot, even at midnight, and we were drawn to the cool water rushing into the night air. At first we just cuffed handfuls of water at each other, but soon we were daring each other to leap over the columns of water, and eventually we were thoroughly soaked, laughing, happy and feeling very free. At one point, I glanced up and noticed a police officer standing beside his cruiser watching us. Perhaps we weren’t supposed to be there playing in the water like that, but I’ll never know because that man decided to let freedom ring that night.
If the officer had come down and curtailed our fun, we’d have humbly, and drippingly, climbed into our car and gone back to our lodgings. But what else are we prepared to give up should someone in power decide we don’t have the freedom to choose what we wish to do? Our president is fond of drawing lines in the sand and warning others not to cross them, then retreating from the line the first time it’s challenged. Is that what we as a nation have become? Drawers of lines in the sand, giving lip service to what we believe, yet willing to back down at the first sign of dissent? It’s a difficult question and one I think we all need to ask ourselves.
How much is freedom and independence worth to you? What are you willing to sacrifice to keep the liberty you have been blessed with? Would you be willing to risk your home, your reputation and even your life? That's what our forefathers, who defied the king of England risked. Or how about your freedom if you decided that civil disobedience was the only answer to oppression or misguided policy? Our men and women in the military risk their lives every day in places were violence is a way of life to project the American ideal in a world where life means little and religion has been perverted to gain power. What is freedom and independence worth to you?