Independence: This Fourth of July, Think About What it Means

Today is the 241st anniversary of the Independence of the United States. America’s birthday. Our Freedom day.

Last year, I wrote on this day about how we, as a nation and as individuals, embrace risk. The first patriots of the United States put it all on the line for their independence from a far-off power; the current group put the future of that heritage at risk in an election, as we must always do when we go into the voting booth.

So now it’s a year a later, and 241 years later, and I’m asking you to remember what Independence actually means. I could go down a list of reasons why I think it’s important to focus some thought on this idea this year in particular, but I want you to think of the reasons why. The concept of freedom is background noise for most of us, but maybe this year, rather than merely celebrating (but do celebrate) bring it into the foreground. Talk about it.

When people say freedom isn’t free, or that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, that’s not just about the men and women who risk their lives to defend our nation and national interests every day. It’s an ideological vigilance that is required as well.

Freedom can be lost in war. It can also be surrendered in peace. For comfort. For safety, it can be lost. It can even be surrendered in the name of petty political vengeance.

Independence is a word with a definition, an idea with implications, and a label we place on the birth of this nation. During the life of that Independence, there have been wars, there has been expansion, there has been loss and gain, and we’ve faced losing it all. We must always face losing it all. Even to ourselves.

But it’s not up to me to tell you if your freedom, if our independence and our way of life is safe today. I don’t want to write all the reasons I think it’s important to consider the nature of independence this year. It’s up to you to think about it. That’s the price of freedom, after all. Vigilance.

It’s the Fourth of July. Have fun. Barbecue, set off fireworks (but don’t barbecue yourself setting off fireworks) and celebrating the amazing freedom we have as Americans. But also consider the risks. Not just the ones we take, but the ones we face.