Fourth of July: What Are We Really Celebrating?

What are your plans for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend? Most celebrations involve the five F’s: fireworks, frankfurters, family, friends, freedom.

Maybe you’ll watch the fireworks at Macy’s East River extravaganza. You might enjoy grilled franks at a barbeque with family and friends.

But freedom? We use that word a lot. Americans have fought and died to defend our freedom. But how many understand what it really means, and why we celebrate this holiday?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Know the origin of that sentence? Right, the Declaration of Independence. But do we really believe and live it?

How about the Constitution? Founding Father James Madison might not have a hit musical written about him, but his Bill of Rights forms the heart of our democracy. Are you familiar with its First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press . . .”

Separation of church and state was vitally important to our Founding Fathers. Blurring that line would be a big mistake and, in fact, would threaten our religious freedoms. Want to live in Iran, Saudi Arabia or other nations where church and state are not separate? Not me!

Don’t like what you see in the media? Some hate Fox News, others The New York Times. One of the first things Hitler did was crush the press for daring to criticize him. We celebrate the fact that we live in a country where people can express viewpoints on all sides of the political spectrum.

Although the occupant of the White House is not the first to be at odds with the media, he should remember Thomas Jefferson’s words: “Were it left for me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

I’ll be at a barbecue this weekend eating franks and ribs, drinking beer, then watching the fireworks with family and friends. Some will see eye to eye with me politically, some won’t, but we all agree on one thing: America’s freedom is something to celebrate.

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2 Responses to Fourth of July: What Are We Really Celebrating?

  1. Evie Young says:

    Your best blog ever!!! It spoke to the heart of patriotism, and reminds us how lucky we are to be living in a land where our founding fathers had the forethought to write a document that has stood the test of almost 2 and a half centuries.
    Thank you for a timely reminder about the importance of our precious freedoms.

  2. Although this column was not as humorous as many of your Saturday Newsday columns I’ve read, I especially liked this one for its use of Thomas Jefferson’s “government OR newspapers” quotation (which he wrote in a January 16, 1787 letter to Colonel Edward Carrington) . I’ve often recommended it to Newsday, The New York Times, the Daily News, and the New York Post for their front page or editorial page masthead motto. Not only won’t Newsday use it in place of their “Where there is no vision, the people perish”, they won’t use my own “Where there is no (tele)vision, the people flourish”.

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