As a teenager, the Fourth of July included parades since I played in the marching band. Later as a mother it still included parades where my daughters played and marched or carried flags. And what would the Fourth be without a picnic and fireworks? Many of my Fourths also included fishing and stories about family members who served in various branches of the military. Above all it was a family day, in essence a small piece of what the historic events of 1776 were all about, a time when father, mother, and their offspring could enjoy the fruits of the sacrifices made for them so long ago.
It was a novel concept back then that people might govern themselves; that matters of religion, education, employment, and self defense rightly belong to the individual. In order to prevent the kind of tyranny they had so narrowly escaped, those founding fathers drew up a constitution that called for an overall government limited to certain responsibilities. The remaining rights were to be restricted to the states in order to keep government as close to the people as possible. Such long time emblems of tyranny as a monarchy, state religion, and the education of only the wealthy were rejected. Opportunity, equality, and freedom became the new mantra of our ancestors who offered their lives in exchange for a new way of doing things. Farmers and shopkeepers became soldiers who suffered and many died for this dream. In the intervening years many other good men and women have died on battlefields around the world where they fought to preserve freedom and the simple red, white, and blue flag under which the revolutionaries fought has grown to include fifty stars.
With the passage of time, freedom grew to include those who came here against their will and those fleeing poverty and a lack of opportunity elsewhere. On the way there have been injustices; the Mormons were ordered exterminated by a narrow-minded governor, some areas denied black people the right to vote, Western states were ordered to stop allowing women to vote, some Hispanic transient workers have been denied payment for their hard manual labor and deported instead, Chinese railroad workers were often treated badly, Japanese families were incarcerated. There are, and likely always will be, some low-minded people who will continue to persecute those they consider beneath them, but real Americans revel in the success of anyone who works for it.
The past week has been troubling for many Americans whether they support non-traditional marriage or not. There is great concern over the usurpation of state rights by the Supreme Court and serious, justifiable concerns about freedom of religion, parental rights, children's rights, divorce laws, and the legality of other potential matrimonial combinations. Most of these concerns could and should have been worked out without the drastic interference of a few unelected individuals. This is what legislatures are for. The hateful, insulting rhetoric being flung about by both sides of the controversy certainly isn't helpful either. Social changes brought about by majority consensus have proved to work better than those forced on people by edict. It will be a challenge and likely involve many contentious years to work out this issue. It's easy to say this doesn't concern me, but in fact it concerns all of us, and we all need to be involved in working out solutions that are fair to all Americans. Let's not let this issue be the one that destroys "justice for all" or the "freedom to worship according to the dictates of our own consciences."
I'll be cheering at a parade, eat yummy food, and fly the stars and stripes this Fourth. I hope you will too. America is still worth celebrating. And just one more thing, a slogan I learned as a teenager, "Don't go forth with a fifth on the Fourth, or you might not be around to go forth on the fifth."