Happy Independence Day!
All over our great nation, Americans are celebrating Independence Day and enjoying the freedom granted to them more than 230 years ago. It was July 4, 1776—more or less—when our forefathers gathered to sign the document that would make America possible: the Declaration of Independence.
Among them was a veritable “who’s who” of famous figures or, better yet, the first American All-Star team: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, Samuel Adams—the man, not the beer—Richard Henry Lee, William Floyd—from whom the musician David Crosby is descended—Benjamin Harrison, William Ellery—who later helped charter Brown University—and a host of others.
Their belief that “all men are created equal” and hold certain “inalienable rights”—among them The Big Three of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—spawned a nation that has its share of problems—from a struggling economy and snooping government to high unemployment and questionable foreign policy decisions—but also has FREEDOM.
And to me, that’s the most important thing. No matter how bad things get—or even how good they get—I know that none of it would be possible without freedom. That’s why I get so fired up every time I read about people in other countries being oppressed, abused, imprisoned, tortured, killed and everything else… countries where freedom isn’t a given and where ultimately it is the people who suffer.
Freedom isn’t about government, politics, religion, war, civil liberties, race, socioeconomic status, sexual preference or any other label you want to slap on it. Or at least it shouldn’t be. In my humble opinion, it’s no different from food, water, shelter, clothing or even breathable air—it’s a necessity, plain and simple.
Yes, Freedom Is. Hell, I might have to make that my new personal slogan, especially since “Freedom: Just Do It” was taken.
For most of the year, Americans are like anyone else. We spend our days eating, sleeping, working, spending time with family, shopping, reading… nothing out of the ordinary, by most measures. And I feel confident in saying that normally, we can’t be found in quiet contemplation, meditating on the fact that we have freedom while so many around the globe do not. Even the most patriotic among us aren’t strolling down our nation’s streets in red, white and blue outfits, waving little American flags while humming the “Star-Spangled Banner” or “America the Beautiful.”
Sure, there might be a few out there, but they certainly are not the norm.
Of course, things change dramatically on the Fourth of July. Quiet patriotism suddenly comes roaring to the surface as Americans gather for cookouts, parades, fireworks displays, fairs, carnivals, family reunions, baseball games and all sorts of other celebrations. And people everywhere are getting into the spirit this Independence Day.
In our nation’s capital, an American flag made from industrial hemp is flying over the White House. Don’t worry, though. Hemp may come from marijuana plants, but it’s not the strain responsible for producing “The Munchies.”
The folks from Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island held their annual hot dog eating contest. Predictably enough, last year’s champions both stepped up to protect their titles. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut from San Jose, California posted his seventh straight victory, forcing down an amazing 69 dogs in just 10 minutes—one better than his 2012 performance. And Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas of Alexandria, Virginia represented the ladies by downing almost 37 hot dogs in the same amount of time—buns and all.
That’s a lot of reconstituted pig lips and assholes to ingest quickly, don’t you think? I’m kidding! Nathan’s rules!
After being damaged by Hurricane Sandy and closed for some time, Liberty Island was finally reopened to tourists today so people could visit perhaps America’s most recognizable symbol of freedom: the Statue of Liberty. A little later, visitors will be treated to fireworks over the Hudson, as well as music from country artists like Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift.
Even the people in Prescott, Arizona are celebrating, despite 19 firefighters losing their lives in nearby Yarnell as they battled wildfires earlier this week. Nothing can stop them from expressing their patriotism and, just as importantly, honoring Americans who sacrificed their lives to save others.
And this brings me to an important consideration on Independence Day, one related to a recent ABC News report that ranked the Fourth of July as the worst day for automobile accidents—killing an average of almost 150 Americans each year.
Celebrations, parades, cookouts and such are all well-and-good until someone gets hurt. And even the best holiday planning can lead to disaster if safety wasn’t given the appropriate attention. Yes, accidents will happen and you can’t predict if or when they will occur, but you can take the precautions necessary to ensure everyone has a good, safe time. Anything less could lead to disaster and, sadly, there have already been some tragedies this year.
In Edmond, Oklahoma, a young boy and his father put together a martial arts float so they could join the town’s July Fourth parade. The boy was sitting on the back of the trailer carrying the float and when his father started to back it up, he either jumped off or fell off. Either way, his father accidentally backed over him and he was pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later.
Another accident occurred in Bangor, Maine when an old fire truck slammed into the back of a tractor during their Fourth of July parade. The parade had been rerouted after a man reportedly started shooting out his window on Park Street. And I’m sad to say that the driver of the tractor was killed.
Since the day is not yet over and some celebrations won’t kick off until later—like the fireworks displays that normally occur after dusk—the opportunity for tragedy is still there. Actually, I can’t remember a year when someone wasn’t hurt or killed during some poorly planned fireworks celebration, whether in public or at their home. And I certainly hope there are no more tragic Fourth of July stories today or ever again, even though that’s unrealistic. Just remember that YOU can prevent tragedy by staying alert, helping those around you and, most importantly, being safe.
Aside from that, I hope you all have a wonderful, fun and safe Independence Day! Happy birthday, America!
Posted on July 4, 2013, in Life, Perspectives, Writing and tagged Benjamin Franklin, creative writing, current-events, fourth of july, freedom, Independence Day, July, life, news, personal, perspectives, Statue of Liberty, United States. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.