In the past few years, the 4th of July has become less and less exciting for me, as pretty much every holiday seems to do as I get older and more boring. (Now, the best thing about holidays is just getting enough sleep.) Today, though, I got to spend the holiday with my sister and her kids, and I remembered what the 4th means to a kid. It means pancakes for breakfast, parades (and incessant waving in order to have candy thrown to you), outdoor barbecues, fireworks and sparklers, and red, white, and blue everywhere. It means a special day, which is exciting no matter what the special part actually is.
Funny enough, the kids' excitement may have been just the thing to remind me of what this day really means.
I was looking forward to the parade mainly because I would get to sit and relax in the sun for a while and watch the kids. But of course, at the very front of the parade was the flag, and we all stood.
Normally, the sight of the flag, especially on the 4th of July, is not a particularly exciting event. I've stood for the flag and put my hand dutifully over my heart hundreds of times. But today, something was different. As I put my hand over my heart, I realized what that signified. I was saying that this flag is close to my heart--this flag, and everything that it stands for.
Have you thought today about what it stands for? I didn't, until that moment. It stands for liberty. Pride in the fact that we care about liberty--even at the expense of wealth or power, if need be. And whether we are conservative or liberal or moderate, Democrat or Republican or Independent, no matter what political party we identify with or which politician we vote for, we're trying to protect our liberty.
And that liberty did not come easily. Hundreds of years ago, people in our country started to realize that independence was necessary. But it would require a fight against one of the most powerful nations in the world. What if we had fought and lost (which was likely)? Conditions might have become even worse. And how would we take care of ourselves? It would have been so much easier to just sit back and turn the other cheek. But a few men took action, and the country somehow succeeded by courageous leadership and thousands of young men, many of whom gave their lives.
A few years later, it became apparent that stronger government was needed. Some of the most intelligent and educated men came together and wrote a document to run the country. A document to run the country. This sort of thing was not common. At all. In fact, it was very different than anything the world had ever seen. The state governments, naturally, were afraid to ratify it. What if it wasn't perfect? But the states overcame their fear and did ratify, and the document survives today.
Over the course of the past 250 years, millions of men and women have given their time, their youth, their comfort, and their lives for our country. Their families have bravely seen them off and then survived without them. And why? For the vision of liberty that gave birth to that flag.
I'm sure you could read a lot of other articles and blogs today that could express all this a lot more eloquently than I just did, and I was tempted to just leave the patriotic stuff to them. I didn't want to seem cliche, or have people skip over this blog post because it's "just another cheesy dose of patriotism." But today, I would feel ungrateful if I blogged about something else and didn't recognize the sacrifice that so many people have made and continue to make for my country. If patriotism is cheesy, then maybe we should just all make some red, white, and blue cheesecake. (Okay, that was cheesy.)
Thank you to all of our soldiers. My hat is off to you, my hand is over my heart for you, and my knees are bent in prayer for you.
Happy Independence Day.