by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
Okay, today I’m going to be a little serious today, because this is a subject on which I am passionate. Don’t worry – I’ll go back to writing and other frivolities next month.
July 1st was Canada Day. July 4th (day before yesterday) was America’s beloved celebration of Independence. July 14th will be France’s Bastille Day, recognized as the beginning of the Revolution against the tyranny of the Bourbon royal house.
I have always wondered why the celebrations of the freedom and sovereignty of three great nations had to fall in the hottest and most uncomfortable month of the year. Anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere you can pretty much count on July being miserable. However, that’s neither here nor there and completely beyond my pay grade.
We must look beyond the physical discomfort and revel in the ideals behind the celebrations. Oh, I know everyone loves the fireworks and parades and picnics and all the other trappings of the holiday, but let’s be honest – anyone can hold a parade or set up a fireworks show just about any time of the year. What is important is the idea behind these three monumental holidays, and this should be important to everyone no matter their political allegiance. Some things go beyond politics.
Freedom. Or, if you prefer, liberty. The right of the people to rule themselves without bowing to the dictates of a single group or another country. The right of the people to choose their own path. The ideal that every man has – within the limits of fair and equitable laws – the right to live his own life as he sees fit. The right of every man to determine his own destiny by his own work and ability. The right of self-reliance and the right to keep what you earn. The right of the pursuit of happiness.
Sometimes each of these countries has fallen a bit short on each of these rights, none of which are guarantees. Every generation has to win these rights again, for as President Reagan said, “Freedom is always only one generation away from extinction.” (And I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of his statement.) Someone else said that the Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots. I find that incredibly sad, but it’s also incredibly true.
I hope each and every one of you had or will have a simply splendid holiday, with friends and food and fireworks and all good things, but I also hope than during this day of celebration and all the days that follow you remember the reason for celebrating. And give a moment of thought to those who died to preserve your freedom to go your own way and make your own choices.
If I can leave you with one thought, it would be (as so many truths are) from Benjamin Franklin. It comes from a letter he wrote to the Pennsylvania Assembly; many versions of the words exist, but the thought is always the same : “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Even as you celebrate, make your choices well.