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What we celebrate

July 4, 2017

I’m sitting in my kitchen in Texas with a glass of iced sweet tea. It’s really good. My family (or “family of origin”) is from the area around Wilmington, NC, so sweet tea is not new to me. When I was a kid, moving all around the country, it was the only way people “back home” drank tea. Learning it was possible to drink and enjoy tea without sugar was a revelation to me. Today, though, is definitely a sweet tea day.

I’m in the kitchen so I can keep an eye on the smoker that sits on our patio. It contains a large beef brisket that I marinated for over 24 hours. Sometime this evening, the marinade plus low heat and a prolonged cooking time (“low and slow”) will have worked together to turn an otherwise difficult to manage cut of beef into something magical.

About noon, I’ll put the baked beans on the heat, along with some sautéed onions, slightly crispy bacon, and some other goodies. These, too, will combine to make something wonderful.

My wife will make her potato salad, for which grown, stolid men have been known to contemplate violence as the supply dwindles.

Friends, many of whom are part of our preparedness team, will come to our house, later today. We’ll eat too much, drink a lot of sweet tea (and some things that will necessitate not driving for a while).  We’ll talk and laugh. Like close friends do, we’ll draw closer and strengthen the bonds of our friendship.

With the exception of the time spent with friends, none of that is important.

Allow me to suggest the men who in July, 1776 (and later) signed a rather short document did not do so simply so you and I could enjoy a smoky, well-cooked beef brisket. It was not for the sake of parties, barbecues and cookouts that they signed their names to the Declaration of Independence. It was not for the purpose of watching fireworks Jefferson wrote

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

Surely, it was not so we could watch a parade that he would continue

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

And it was most certainly not simply for the purpose of listening to politicians whose devotion to the cause of liberty seems at times dubious at best that he would write (with modification by others) and the signers would endorse

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

The cause of liberty is far greater than the things we do today. Sadly, many Americans, heirs to a liberty that, though often sadly unrealized, denied to some and obstructed by the very representatives elected to protect it, are unaware this liberty has from its inception to the present day has been unparalleled in its intended scope. That the people, the “common man” if you will, should be free to determine and conduct their own affairs as they will, without any external constraint beyond not infringing upon the right of others to do the same, is as alien a concept today as it was in the 18th century. That this liberty is often infringed with the best of intentions makes it no less onerous. C.S. Lewis put it this way:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

Americans, I submit, did not inherit a freedom and liberty intended to save us from ourselves or one by which we attempt to do the same to others. Rather, we have inherited, at least in theory if not always in practice, one in which we are free to exercise our liberty in whatever way we will (absent infringing upon the same liberty of others), even if it is to our own less than desirable end. Anything less is a lesser freedom and a lesser liberty.

Today, it is this liberty we celebrate, not some artificially sweetened substitute offered to us by many on both the left and the right.

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One Comment
  1. That we do. I’m doing ribs today. 🙂

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