I, like most of you, probably, don’t think about it very much.
Maybe it’s because we don’t have to.
I get up in the morning after a typical night’s sleep without having to worry that some authority figure is going to burst into my house and arrest me without due process. When I flick on a light switch or turn on the faucet for a shower, I am confident the light will come on and the water will come out.
I eat my breakfast without a care in the world that it may have been produced with some unknown poisons that will make me sick. I get in my car, put on my seat belt and drive safely to work without ever being worried that I will be randomly pulled over to “show my papers.”
In short, as long as I follow some very rudimentary rules, laws and common courtesies, my days are worry-free from crime, negligence, unwarranted search and seizure or arrest by an authority power, and I can pretty much go, do and eat whenever and whatever I please.
If I really think about it, I am free and enjoy, without a doubt in my mind, an unprecedented sense of independence that probably no other population of any nation before us has achieved.
The key word there is “independence.”
This freedom and independence is, upon further reflection, certainly one of the things, if not the thing, that has made our people great in terms of the freedom of thought and expression that has fostered great inventions, literature, art and a collective sense of justice that we have felt compelled to spread around the world.
This coming week marks the 237th celebration of July 4, 1776, a day on which some extraordinarily brave people risked everything they owned and their lives in the belief that they would prevail.
The same goes for the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and more recent conflicts like Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Liberty and freedom, to coin a phrase, are not free.
There are many in our community who live quietly and do not talk about their service, but each of us knows who they are. Perhaps the best way to observe the Fourth of July is to thank them for their service and their sacrifice.
As I watch fireworks each year at places such as the fairgrounds in Princeton or the park in Pease, I tend not to think very much about the significance of it all.
But as the “rockets red flare and the bombs burst in air,” it’s a good time to remember how we got here.
This is a great nation and system that was devised almost 250 years ago and still seems to work in all its imperfections today.
Jeff Hage is the editor of the Princeton Union-Eagle, Mille Lacs County Times, Town & Country and My Generation. He is also a member of the ECM Publishers Inc. Editorial Board. Reach him by email at [email protected] or by phone at 763-389-1222.