Thursday, July 4, 2013

Ring for yourself

Happy Independence Day! Today, Americans commemorate our freedom from Great Britain. And it's sort of morphed into a day for recognizing all of the major freedoms that we enjoy in this country.
The 4th of July, as we lovingly refer to it, is probably the best preserved of our national holidays. Even young children know why we mark this day--or, at the very least,  they know it has something to do with America.
It's still pure in its form. It has one sustaining color scheme. It has no widely-used mascot. It hasn't become convoluted by propaganda or excessive consumerism. It holds true.
And even in this age when it's popular to produce trashy parody Christmas carols about beer, or farting Easter bunny gag gifts, or (quite funnily) turn Thanksgiving into Slapsgiving, the 4th of July stands alone.
It seems to be off limits; poking fun at Independence Day is refreshingly still taboo. It's standing the test of time.
But what this day represents, our rights and freedoms, are not.
Yes, we still enjoy more individual freedoms in the US than perhaps any other country in the world. But these rights are not guaranteed, regardless of what we would learn in history or government class. The rights we enjoy right now may be gone tomorrow.
Our government, or some foreign government or group, may decide to violate our rights, or to end them altogether.
The Declaration of Independence mentions "unalienable rights", i.e., "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These are beautifully poetic and idyllic, and I'm proud that the forefathers of our nation were the authors of such a document, and had the faith and courage to believe the words they penned.
But if I am wrongfully killed tomorrow, my right to life is for naught. If some government were to decide that Christians or females or white people should be held in prison camps, my right to liberty is just words on paper.
So right now, today, while I have these rights and am able to exercise them, I'm going to do just that.
I'm going to wear comfortable clothes. I'm going to attend worship. I'm going to write. I'm going to spend time outdoors and breathe fresh air. I'm going to stop looking at the boards and notebooks and lists of things I'll do someday, and I'm doing them now.
Some may say that in reducing these awesome freedoms to such simple things is disrespectful to those who fight for our freedoms-- that I should use my freedom to protest in the streets or boycott or run for office. But I argue that in remembering that even our smallest freedoms-- the flip of a light switch or the taking out of a library book-- are not guaranteed, but fought for and defended.
Let's not take what we have been granted for granted.