Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day, July 4th, 2008

The sights and sounds, the music and pageantry of the celebration of the birth of my country never fails to bring tears to my eyes. When I ponder the blessings we have received "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence," as the writers of the Declaration of Independence put it; when I meditate on the privileges and advantages my family has received in our lives; when I think of my fellow Americans, who share this bounteous prosperity; I am choked up with gratitude and the thought that I did very little to earn these advantages. I was born in this country—born to a life of privilege—not exactly a meritorious act of volition.
Every year, we attend the Thornton festivities, which start with a concert by the Longmont Symphony Orchestra playing popular and patriotic music. (Of course, they always end this most American of concert celebrations with the music of a Russian, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture!) This year, there was also a spectacular performance by sky divers, gliding into the midst of the huge crowd at dark. Thornton also hosted the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. The official site and photos are here. Pam took some "phantastic" photos of the wall, the fireworks, the sky divers, and the family, which you can see here.

Every year, the Longmont Symphony Orchestra plays a medley of the armed forces songs. When Anchors Aweigh is played I stand up for my 25 years of Navy service. It is always a humbling experience to stand and be thanked by your fellow citizens. It was especially so this year as I was sitting next to a young man who put his life on the line in Iraq and thankfully returned home safely to tell about it. I was also reminded of the tens of thousands of my fellow Americans whose names on the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall signified their ultimate sacrifice during their service. And as the fireworks overhead reminded us of Francis Scott Key watching the bombing of Fort McHenry, a local radio station played country music in the background. In one song, a young mother with small children talked to their father far away at war. As I choked back sobs, the tears welled in my eyes as I thought of the sacrifices, the loss of life, the breakup of families, the bravery but yet the ugliness of war.
In 25 years of service, I never faced down an enemy soldier. I never slept in a tent, never slogged through a swamp in some forsaken jungle, never carried my weapon everywhere for protection, never looked in the eyes of a child and wondered if he or she was wired to kill me. And yet people thank me for my service. How much more should we thank those who face death every day for an ideal, for a 232-year-old experiment called the United States of America.

As I pondered these things, I began to wonder what makes me "proud to be an American." What is the quintessentially American ideal that we celebrate every year on the birth of our nation? Freedom and liberty are words thrown around so much, they mean everything and nothing.

I finally came to the conclusion that I could not improve on the words of the Declaration of Independence and these self-evident truths: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

And in what is more a declaration of dependence than independence, the following: "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

Independence from a despotic power with a "history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over (us)" and dependence on Divine Providence and one another.

And I wondered, deep in my wonderer, in the place where I wonder, whether or not "the governed," i.e. us, we the people, have the capacity and the will and the understanding and the resolve to truly give our informed consent or whether we are destined to submit ourselves again to tyranny. We can only hope, pray, and work together that it be the former and not the latter!


Bonnie said...

Happy 4th ! I so wish we could have been there to celebrate ... maybe in about 3 years time. Next time we come to visit after this time we plan to do it in the summer ... in order for the kids to experience the 4th of July and to be at the Alley reunion !

Can't wait for NOVEMBER ! It can't get here soon enough for me !

cKc--aka Kathy said...

very well thought out and aptly expressed

Rory said...

I love your patriotism and that you know and understand why you are patriotic, not just a blind "I love America". Great post!
As Bonnie said...wish we were there.