Tomorrow is the Fourth of July — Independence Day.
It’s not “Dependence” Day, though we all depend on each other.
Nor is it “National Fireworks and Hot Dog” Day, though we can rightly enjoy both.
On this date in 1776, independence was a new idea. The American Revolution marked the beginning of a war that goes on today.
Imperfect though our freedom may be, we are making progress. Independence Day is our chance to celebrate what we have — and resolve not to lose it.
Revolutions are always messy. Ours was no different. The Founding Fathers were men like us, with flaws like our own.
Life was hard back then. People wanted the simple things we now take for granted: food to eat, a roof over their heads, a chance to make a living, the ability to worship God in their own way.
Freedom did not mean solitude. We would do well to recover the rich community life of 1776. Families stayed together. Neighbors helped each other. Children were treasured, elders respected.
Some historians think the Revolution was really about money. Taxation, trade and other economic matters were indeed important. They were important because human freedom is impossible without economic freedom.
The man who wants to provide for his family is not greedy. When the demands of a faraway king leave your children hungry, you do what a man should do. You fight.
Some fight on, even today.
The summer of 2013 is a worldwide summer of discontent. Turn on the news and you’ll see it: scenes of protest and struggle — people who want freedom.
They are Brazilian, Egyptian, Greek, Turkish, Spanish, Syrian, black, white and every shade in between.
But their dreams are not necessarily our dreams. Their motives are different because their lives are different. They face challenges we do not know and may not understand.
The crowds on TV are people with whom we share the human condition. They want freedom, too.
We share that dream, if nothing else.
The saying “freedom isn’t free” rings true today, now more than ever. We ought to say it every day of the year, because it is undeniably important to remind ourselves often of the struggles the rest of the world endures.
Freedom costs blood, sweat and tears. Soldiers die. Families break up. Fortunes are lost.
Freedom has a price.
The men signing the Declaration of Independence knew this. They pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
Think about those words. The men in Philadelphia chose them carefully on that hot summer day. Knowing what was at stake, they committed their lives to each other.
They spoke as one. They resolved, if necessary, to die as one.
To them, honor was not just a word. Honor was sacred. Their honor was the one thing no king or tyrant could take away.
Men like those willing to risk their lives then — and women, too — still live among us today. The honor of 1776 did not die because it cannot die. It lives in all of us as a powerful idea.
Honor was alive in 1836, in a part of America we now call Texas. Colonel William B. Travis, surrounded in the Alamo, was a man of honor.
Travis was sure Texas and America shared the same dream. We know this because he addressed his final letter “To the People of Texas and all Americans in the World.”
“I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion; otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword.
“I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat.
“I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism and everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch.
“If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country. Victory or Death.”
Colonel Travis kept his word. He would die like a soldier two weeks later. He was not the first, nor the last.
Tomorrow we celebrate the freedom bought at the Alamo, at Valley Forge, at Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, Okinawa, Normandy, Inchon, Hamburger Hill, Fallujah and all the other places where Americans died and honor lived.
Freedom is not free. It never was and never will be. We enjoy it only because others paid the price.
On this Independence Day, remember them. Thank them if you can. You may not have another chance. They may not want your gratitude. Give it anyway, because they deserve it.
Uncommon Wisdom Daily