A friend tells a story about growing up in Chicago in the ‘60s. A neighbor boy he played with was Italian. The entire family was Italian. They spoke Italian, ate Italian and yelled Italian.
fireworksThe Italian boy asked our friend what he was and he said Swedish. By the way, he’s the most Middle Eastern-looking Swede you’ll ever meet – dark hair, dark eyes, dark complexion. Our friend, knowing full well the Italian kid was Italian, asked him what he was.
“American!” the kid shouted.
“No, you’re not; you’re Italian!”
“No, I’m American! American!”
There’s no better time than the Fourth of July to reflect on what it means to be an American. There’s been a move in recent years to encourage people to read the Declaration at Fourth of July celebrations, cookouts and gatherings.
If you’ve found yourself staring in disbelief at headlines about million dollar government conferences and dance videos, abuse of individuals at the hands of the IRS, a rush to make new laws when we don’t enforce the laws we have, and you feel a knot in your gut over diminishing liberties and mushrooming bureaucracies, take a page from history.
If you find yourself wondering if the American dream was just that, a dream, and you question whether the next generation will find jobs that can support them, own homes or be able to experience mobility in employment, it’s time to sit back. Find a copy of the Declaration of Independence, pop the tab on your beverage of choice and start reading. Don’t just read to the familiar, the part about the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; read the whole thing, start to finish.
No other charter of freedom in the entire world is so beautifully written, powerful and inspiring. There is nothing stuffy and staid about the Declaration; it is a document of sweeping passion. It begins nearly apologetic in tone, noting that long established government should not be changed for light and transient causes. Then the crescendo begins. It starts with an acknowledgment that rights come from God, then shifts to a defense of freedom, grows louder denouncing tyranny and, with barely contained rage, enumerates the ways the colonists have suffered.
The grievances come rapid fire: the King has established arbitrary government; forbidden governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance; abolished valuable laws and fundamentally altered the forms of government.
No people lose freedom overnight. Loss of freedom happens incrementally, slowly and silently, like fog slipping in at night. Freedom requires vigilance and voice.
When you hold a copy of the Declaration, you hold your birthright. You hold the very words, the fervor and the commitment to sacrifice that secured your freedom as an American. You hold something else, too—your heritage, your children’s heritage and your grandchildren’s heritage.
Read the Declaration aloud this Fourth. Read it the way it was written—with passion. Read it like your lives, your fortunes and your sacred honor depended on it.
Read it in a group and it’s a guarantee you’ll be talking about more than the weather, ball scores and fireworks.