Sunday, July 5, 2009

Independence Day

Independence Day is a time for serious reflection on our nation and the freedom that was gained some 223 years ago.

It is hard for us to imagine what life must have been like for the colonists of 1776. For years, the fledgling nation had been progressing toward Independence, notwithstanding the resistance of Great Britain to this movement. As the colonies expressed their Independence more and more frequently, the king imposed more and more restrictions to the lives of the colonists.

The ability of the Continental Congress to reach a consensus on the need to declare the colonies Independence from England was by no means an easy task. Southern colonies, for the most part, saw no need for Independence. Their lives had not been adversely affected by Great Britain in the way that the colonists from New England had. There had been no invasion of their territory and life proceeded as usual. But there was mounting pressure to declare an official break between the colonies and the mother country.

Debate raged in congress for weeks on the issue. The stain of slavery reared its ugly head with the northern colonies wishing to eradicate the practice altogether. This was met with great resistance from the southern colonies because much of their economy depended upon the institution of slavery. Eventually, the subject of slavery was dropped only to once again rise in the Civil War to be fought some decades later.

Through hard nosed negotiation and give and take, consensus was finally reached on the subject of American Independence. On July 2, 1776, the decisive vote was taken. Delegates had mandated that, in order for Independence to be declared, the vote for such a degree had to be unanimous. Twelve colonies voted to break their ties with Great Britain. One colony abstained because they had not received instructions from their legislature as to what to do. With the vote, Independence became a reality.

Independence was not, however, won easily. There was a bloody price to pay. In the beginning, the fight for Independence against the British army seemed impossible. But as time wore on, the Americans began to prevail in battle so that, in the end, the British were defeated and the American nation, bathed in the blood of patriots, was born.

Today, we remember that time with a sense of nostalgia that hides the true facts of how our Independence was won. We do not have a full appreciation of how our freedom was won. In comparison with other wars, the Revolutionary War gets little publicity. Few movies have been made about it. While several books have been written about the subject, their number nowhere nears that of books that have been written about the Civil War. Yet, it was no less important.

We must look at our liberty and freedom in this modern world. How much liberty and Independence do we have? What would the members of that brave congress so long ago think of a federal government that has grown so huge and powerful that it has taken control of the banking system and auto manufacturing companies and now poised on the verge of formulating a national health care system to be administered by the government? We must ask ourselves if we are forsaking much of our Independence in the name of quick fixes and unimaginative plans to save us financially. One of the great strengths of this country has always been the amazing creativity of its citizenry. This creativity was possible because government stayed out of people's lives as much as possible so as not to get in the way. But today, with government looming in nearly every aspect of our lives, has that creativity been stifled?

We must look after our Independence and freedom or we will have to forfeit these very fundamental elements of our life as we know them. That means involvement in government to varying degrees by all of us. We must communicate with our elected officials. We must become educated in what our government is doing. We must know what legislation is pending so that we may influence the outcome. In short, we must make our voices heard loudly and clearly. Those delegates to the Continental Congress risked their very lives so that we might have a voice all of these years later. We must continue to uphold their values and ideals through active participation in our government, a vital right won by generations of fighting men and women.