The last three months have been frustrating and puzzling to this aging outdoorsman who has lived most of his adult life in the high country of Arizona. What to believe and which expert should I listen to has consumed far too much of my time, and possibly you may think the same. Freedoms that I have long considered normal activities appear to be anything but.
On this great holiday where we celebrate our independence it is time to reflect on this unique American experience called the United States of America.
Having spent more than 40 years teaching U.S. history, it has heightened my awareness that we are blessed to live in the greatest country on the face of the earth. Opportunities and freedoms abound to where “rags to riches” stories still happen when individuals invest time and work for a vision or goal. Immigrants are still willing to risk everything to have the chance to succeed in the American Dream. How did this happen?
It started when 56 men placed their signatures on a document called the Declaration of Independence in 1776, officially breaking away from England, the strongest nation in the world. Ben Franklin made his sobering statement as he signed his name to the declaration, “We must indeed all hang together or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” It took eight long years of fighting before this nation was separate and independent. Citizen soldiers took up arms as the continental army was formed under the leadership of George Washington and many other patriot generals.
Not only were they fighting for a separate and sovereign nation, but also the pursuit of the American Dream. A self-governing people was paramount where individual liberties and freedoms are the norm. The private ownership of land and businesses were very important which was in part the pursuit of happiness and this thought created bustling communities in all the newly formed 13 states.
The preamble to the declaration states the purpose of why the 13 colonies were breaking away from the mother country, England.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable [inalienable] rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The key is a self-governing people, with a representative government determined by the ballot box. The uniqueness of this experiment in self governing created the American dream for untold millions, no matter what their humble beginnings were. Freedom is a wonderful thing, but freedom also has a responsibility of an ordered society with laws that the public should follow. Alexis de Tocqueville spoke volumes when he made this statement in his work Democracy in America, “Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn than how to use freedom.”
As a nation in the year 2020 celebrate your freedom, it did not come cheap. This experiment in democracy and the American Dream was fought on many fronts in numerous wars beginning with the patriots of the revolution. John Adams encouraged the document to be read annually on Independence Day in every town in America with a celebration to follow.
John Adams, “I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by a solemn act of devotion to God. It ought to be celebrated by parades, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, and fireworks from one end of the continent to the other forevermore.” I think John Adams got it right!
We live in the greatest freedom loving country in the world protected by three momentous documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
Celebrate our independence this holiday, and with freedom comes individual responsibility.