Independence Day in the U.S.A. is celebrated on July 4th each year in memory of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Sincerity and gratitude distinguish the national holiday.
Traditional festivities are exuberant and, although perhaps reduced in size, will be possible again this summer in many communities due to the prevalence of the vaccine against the virulent COVID-19 virus.
The ravages of the pandemic presented another painful example of how the absence of good health steals freedom from individuals, families, cities, and countries. Surely the pandemic spurred many people around the world to reflect deeply on what freedom means to them.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, summarized their beliefs in the second paragraph of that revered document.
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...
The heady--indeed radical--beliefs that the founding fathers declared on July 4,1776, led to
Given the striking significance of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America, the two documents are often printed together in the same pocket-sized book or pamphlet for easy distribution to anyone who wants a copy.
The founders of the U.S.A. established a democratic republic, a representative democracy. And yet...identifying who would be represented in this experiment of representative democracy became a major struggle in our nation's history.
White male citizens took the lead from the beginning. Expanding the voting franchise to African-Americans, Native Americans, all women, and young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 required time, open minds, explosive controversy, hard work and, regrettably, extraordinary pain and suffering.
Through it all, the words of the Declaration of Independence stood unchanged as a beacon of who Americans are meant to be, no matter how far we stray from our goal.
Now, back to my question. What does freedom mean to you?
When I ask Americans that question, the answer is often liberty. The two words are often interchangeable.
Freedom implies the absence of hindrance, restraint, confinement, or repression, as in freedom of speech. Liberty, often interchangeable with the word freedom, strictly connotes past or potential restrictions, repression, etc. as in civil liberties."
Good answers. But let's go a bit deeper.
The period of history in which one is born impacts how much one will be asked to do for one's country. Recognizing where history has planted you and the part you will be asked to play in sustaining a democratic republic, a representative democracy, is imperative.
Each generation faces challenges to keep and improve our representative democracy. A great past does not guarantee a great future.
Freedom of speech--the freedom to speak truth to power--is integral to our daily lives in a democracy. To speak truth requires the willingness to seek the objective truth. And the objective truth requires a high regard for factuality.
Recognition of the need for a fact-seeking electorate is one of the reasons for the U.S.A.'s support of public education via public schools and public libraries.
Healthy children learn far more easily, and healthy adults can contribute more to a workforce that sustains the needs of all Americans.
A child who is hindered by a poor education and restrained from accessing both wellness care and illness care is not free in a modern, complicated nation. Working-age adults who suffer illnesses or injuries that destroy their participation in the paid workforce are not free.
Educated, healthy adults who are paid fair wages and salaries are more likely to
Freedom. What else does it mean to you?
1. Declaration of Independence, photo of pamphlets and USA flag by Lynne Schall, June 2021.
2. The Constitution of the United States of America with the Declaration of Independence, photo of book cover and USA flag by Lynne Schall, June 2021.
3. USA flag on sky blue background with three stars in foreground. Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels. Free download accessed June 28, 2021. www.pexels.com
Lynne Schall is the author of three novels: Women's Company - The Minerva Girls (2016), Cloud County Persuasion (2018), and Cloud County Harvest (November 2022). She and her family live in Kansas, USA.