Growing up, Independence Day was always my favorite holiday. Like most kids, I didn’t grasp the significance of the blessings of liberty that our forefathers secured for us. My parents did a good job of instilling American pride in my siblings and me, but mostly, I just liked the fireworks. And since the Fourth of July is only a day after my birthday (seriously… my mom couldn’t wait 12 more minutes?), I always kind of looked at the fireworks as a continuation of the birthday party.
Confession time. I still love the fireworks. I would still go out to see them even if it weren’t for the higher meaning behind our nation’s birthday or the incredible sacrifices it has taken to give us a nation whose government is designed to be of the people, by the people and for the people. Like most of us, I sometimes get so caught up in the celebration that it’s easy to forget exactly what we’re celebrating.
We’ve become so used to the level of liberty we enjoy in America that we’ve come to accept it as normal. We wonder if our voices are heard in government, all the while taking it as a given that we have the right to have our voices heard. Our brand of liberty has affected the entire globe, with the majority of nations throughout the world now enjoying some form of representative government and some measure of freedom of speech.
Historically, though, we’re still sort of an oddity. While we’re not the only nation that has ever embraced some level of democracy, we were the first to extend rights to all of our citizens on a large scale. Our Founding Fathers knew that they were embarking on something new and different, what has often been called an “experiment in democracy.” They also knew that there was a price to be paid in order to gain and to keep the freedoms we enjoy. That’s why, when declaring independence from Britain and her king, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” they pledged “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Our nation went through many struggles to gain its independence. Birthing a new nation didn’t come without severe labor pains, both in the war for independence and in the ensuing struggle to put together a coherent form of government that honored individual rights while providing the structure necessary to defend those hard-won right.
Two hundred and forty years later, we still have our share of struggles. Just as well-intentioned Americans disagreed on the particulars of how to best govern our nation then, well-intentioned Americans disagree on how to best govern our nation now. But even with all of our struggles, through all of our ups and downs, through times of war and times of peace, through times of plenty and times of depression, the divine Providence our Founding Fathers called upon has continued to protect us, we have been blessed and we can honestly say that the experiment in democracy has been and continues to be a success.
Happy Independence Day!
By Scott Rutherford