Saturday, July 03, 2010

This 4th, This Land, Our Freedom

Tomorrow will be the 4th of July.  BBQs with friends, flags and bunting, a parade down Main Street.  Bikes festooned with red, white, and blue streamers.  Fireworks just after dusk.

But there is so much more going on here - and it really takes place in the ordinary of everyday.  Its the making of freedom, the slow forging of liberty.  Its the way we live our lives.  We get up, get dressed, go to work, care for the elderly and the less fortunate, and in the process, we make, hopefully, something good.

Today I came across a piece by my favorite columnist, Peggy Noonan, and it talks about words that were edited out of the Declaration of Independence: 

And so were the words that came next. But they should not have been, for they are the tenderest words. 

Poignantly, with a plaintive sound, Jefferson addresses and gives voice to the human pain of parting: "We might have been a free and great people together."

What loss there is in those words, what humanity, and what realism, too.

"To write is to think, and to write well is to think well," David McCullough once said in conversation. Jefferson was thinking of the abrupt end of old ties, of self-defining ties, and, I suspect, that the pain of this had to be acknowledged. It is one thing to declare the case for freedom, and to make a fiery denunciation of abusive, autocratic and high-handed governance. But it is another thing, and an equally important one, to acknowledge the human implications of the break. These were our friends, our old relations; we were leaving them, ending the particular facts of our long relationship forever. We would feel it. Seventeen seventy-six was the beginning of a dream. But it was the end of one too. "We might have been a free and great people together."
 A free and great people. And interestingly enough, all these years later, Britain and the US are again "a free and great people together" in so many ways.

This 4th I am thankful for my country.  But more than that, I am thankful for those men and women, now stretching back more than 234 years, who have lived and died and sacrificed to make this land one of the best places to live on the planet. 

May we not waste this legacy and heritage.  May we use it wisely in future years to bless this planet.
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