by David T. Bruce
Our family enjoyed watching the local fireworks display this Independence Day, and I enjoyed watching my children’s faces as the colors from the bursts reflected in their smiles. At the same time we celebrated the day, I questioned the reality of what we were supposedly celebrating.
As a good parent, I share with my children the significance of Independence Day, and I try to instill a measure of patriotism within them. As a citizen, I wrestle with how we tend to define patriotism following the terrorist attacks of September 2001. If a person speaks out against a policy that is in any way tied to our military or military support, that person is considered to be unpatriotic. If a person finds a measure of government support beneficial, that person is considered to be socialist. Corporate bail-outs are acceptable, however.
For the right to have super department stores, credit cards, MP3 devices, and cell phones, we have pawned our right to speak freely against a government that repeatedly reveals itself to be as corrupt as that government we declared independence from over 230 years ago. In 1776, we invoked the people’s right of revolution against a corrupt government, for “it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.” The Declaration of Independence provides for this right, yet like so many of our rights, we do not exercise the right to vote or speak out against possible and obvious government corruption. What I find most chilling is that the choice to speak out is often discouraged by our peers and to some degree, depending on what community a person lives in, by local governments.
When we celebrate Independence Day, we celebrate a moment in time that was profound and inspirational. We also celebrate a continued freedom. I wonder, however, if we are examining closely the price of freedom, not in lives sacrificed in conflicts, but in rights sacrificed on the home front. How ironic that for the sake of freedom, we tend to look the other way from government corruption related to business and religious conviction, thereby forsaking our rights.
I am proud of where America comes from and what America stands for in that context. I am pleased that I have the opportunity to share these words today with an audience that may or may not be forgiving of my criticism. I am guarded and fearful, however, of a government that is systematically forging a regime that forsakes the individual, giving allegiance only to collectives with the heaviest coffers. Instead of resting on our laurels, perhaps we should look to the future, observing Independence Day as an affirmation of what the day is intended to signify and as a reminder of the work we, the People, still have to do.