Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A new tradition

For many Americans, tomorrow kicks off Independence Day weekend -- four days of family, friends, food and fireworks.

Something about our 4th of July celebrations sets this holiday apart from, say, Christmas or Thanksgiving. The noisier and more raucous it is, the better we like it.

Maybe it's the whole independence thing. We seem to have decided that "cutting loose" is the ultimate tribute to independence.

Hey, neighbor -- my kid is going to set off string after string of firecrackers, right in the middle of the cul de sac, all night long, because it's Independence Day!

It is, as they say, a great country. Party on -- I'll be right there with you.

But before I crack open that first beer on Friday, I'll be starting an Independence Day tradition of my own. I'll find a quiet place under the summer sky to do some holiday reading.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
I'll take a moment to conjure an image of a band of committed patriots who valued, above all else, their independence.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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."
I'll look around at my family and friends, celebrating their independence, their freedom.
"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
I’ll gratefully acknowledge that those words, already familiar to me, are the reason for this day of celebration.

I doubt that an annual reading of the Declaration of Independence will achieve the popularity of the biblical Christmas story or A Visit from St. Nicholas, but that’s not the point. This is:

I stand in freedom today because those brave men stood for independence 232 years ago.

For me, that bears remembering -- every day, but especially on this Independence Day.