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The meaning of American independence

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Who is July 4 really about? The Founding Fathers? The warriors? The heroes?

When it comes to the Fourth of July — as with most other national holidays — all of the clichés have long been spoken.

It’s about more than beer, barbecues and baseball, more than fireworks, more than hanging Old Glory from the porch or bandstand.

It’s even more than taking a moment from our busy and colorful celebrations to think about the courage and vision of those Founding Fathers who, on a sultry summer day in Philadelphia in 1776, dared to stare a mighty and oppressive empire full in the face and, without blinking, defy it.

It’s not only about how the United States of America first came to be but what it has taken to preserve it, to perpetuate it, to work constantly to improve it.

It’s certainly about leaders — men whose names are well-known to us and whose likenesses appear on our money and postage stamps — but, even more so, about those who are, for the most part, nameless and faceless today but whose courage and sacrifice was manifested in places with such names as Gettysburg, Argonne, Normandy, Pusan, Khe Sanh, Tikrit.

And it’s even about more than warriors.

It’s about those who fought for our civil rights, toiled in factories and on farms, taught our children, treated our sick, furthered our knowledge in science, drafted and defended our laws, helped ease the suffering of our poor and disadvantaged, composed songs, painted paintings and wrote books.

The holiday is really about all Americans — of whatever color, background, gender, age or creed — whose intelligence, creativity, energy and belief in freedom have become integral parts of the crazy, hopeful and beautiful quilt that is America.

There’s nothing wrong with showing some enthusiastic national spirit every now and then. Flying the flag and cheering at pyrotechnics are loads of fun, and it’s ennobling to remember the patriots who 238 years ago made all this possible.

Just remember that the Fourth of July goes way beyond that small and determined group of brave visionaries. It’s about the very large group of brave visionaries who have come in their wake, who follow and expand upon their example today and who — G-d willing — will continue to do so long into the future.

It’s really about us.

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

 

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