Today is July 4, 2016, which I celebrate with my country as Independence Day. As it would happen, three little persons in my home this morning were reenacting an enormous battle, the Battle of Little Big Brothers. I was sleeping. Until I wasn’t.
Sometimes, a warning shot over the bed will do to quiet the rebels. But when they get truly overwrought, only a nice, calm lecture will do. It’s a method of which brain works. Slowing down the argument without directly talking about it, while talking about, oh, say, history, changes the brain gears and gets them working in a new direction.
If I do say so myself, and I do, this morning’s lecture was inspired. It went something like this:
What is today? Yeah, Fourth of July. What else do we call it? Sure, we call it Independence Day. Why do we celebrate today? (insert surface notions of freedom and autonomy)
Eldest said, “We celebrate gaining our freedom from Great Britain when we signed the Declaration of Independence.” Perfect launch pad.
Actually, the Declaration wasn’t the end of anything but just the beginning. Some might know the day the revolution ended, the day we were verily on our own, but that’s not the day we celebrate. We celebrate the day the decision was made. The day we put pen to paper and held ourselves to our convictions. That’s the day heralded by marching bands from east coast to west. That’s the day designated for sun and fun and gathering by twos and fours and tens to celebrate. To reflect. To light the sky.
If you think about it, we often celebrate beginnings: birthdays, weddings, anniversaries of everything from marriage to forming companies to losing our addictions. We enjoy the promise of beginning. We mark our calendars lest we forget. We plan and prepare to party, rejoicing in one another.
It’s the kind of optimism that founded a nation. We wrote some words and signed some names and let the ink dry while we forged ahead. What can be easily forgotten is the work that follows a beginning. The revolution. The babies. The marriages. The real life that follows every beginning. It’s hard. It’s sometimes brutal. The joy of making the decision evaporates in the melee of the doing.
Only months or years later do we celebrate. Only then do we forget the hard work and remember the decision, the occasion, the elation.
But we can make a new beginning right now. We can hit the reset button on this day and choose for it to be calmer, kinder, better. No more fighting. Enjoy one another.
I’m writing this post a couple hours after the fact, and it’s definitely not verbatim. But it is the message.
All those long years ago, some men got together and declared independence. Then began the work. Theirs, their wives’ and children’s and parents’ and friends’. The battles roiled. Lives ended. Freedom was paid. But the work didn’t stop. They had to form a new government, echoes of a very old government. A republic. A democracy. They had to decide how their freedom would echo to new generations through laws, through traditions, through it all.
There were missteps. Painful, shameful errors in judgement, strategy, tactics. It has not been all sunshine and firecrackers since that day the ink dried. It has not been all beer and barbecue. It has not been all parades and rock ballad tributes.
We’re in one of those tough places even today, our anniversary of deciding to become independent. That was one beginning, but we are on the cusp of another. We must decide yet again to be free, to be a republic, to be a democracy. We must determine individually whether the legislature is comprised of politicians, of the cream of society’s crop – its smartest and bravest and best, or of everyday people – those most knowledgable in how legislative outcomes impact actual people.
We must decide who will lead the country and what limits that person must abide. We must choose a path. It will be in ink on every ballot. What is at stake? Freedom. It’s as simple and complex as that. Freedom from governmental oppression and individual tyranny. Freedom of movement, of thought, of speech, of worship, of defense. Freedom from mortgaging our very lives to the banks that fought for nothing.
I don’t presume to tell you how to vote, how to be involved, how to see your country free. But it took a fight among my boys this morning for me to gather my thoughts on the beginning our country now and continually faces.
To new beginnings!