What July 4 Independence Day Means…

… to me.


This is another rant from me since I am taking yet another break (temporarily) to blog about my travels. I promise to blog about Lutherstadt-Wittenberg next time.

President Barack Obama made a shocking statement on July 4. When asked what Americans should do, he replied that Americans should stop looking to the past and look ahead. One brave man asked the follow up question: “So, should Americans stop celebrating the Fourth of July?” The president had the gall to answer in the affirmative.  Government will take care of you, he said. What happened to good old fashion patriotism?

What happened to –

Nathan Hale, American Revolutionary War hero: “I regret I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Patrick Henry, Virginian statesman: “Give me Liberty or give me death!”

Stephen Decatur, US Navy Captain made famous in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”

Daniel Webster, American statesman: “May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!”

Or the inscription on the Statue of Liberty written by Emma Lazarus:

Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

If you prefer more modern men:

Robert J. McCracken, Scottish-born Minister of a church in NYC in the 1950s. “We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.  ~Robert J. McCracken

William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the USA: “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

I can go on but I will stop with the quotes for now. America for me is a nation built on ideas, not race. Every other country in the world is based on race. When you think of China or Korea or Kenya, you think of a person with a certain skin tone, facial features, height, demeanor, clothing (or lack of), or culture or tradition. But here in the US, to quote the old children’s song: “Yellow, colored, black or white, they are precious in Jesus’s sight.” That describes America quite accurate. Black Americans have one subculture and historical experiences but are still Americans in every sense. Southerners have another subculture but are still Americans in every sense. For San Francisco or NYC, Chinatown is not far off the top of the list to describe the cultural flavor of those cities. My neighbors to my right used to be Russian Jews; now they are a Persian family. I used to go to a Christian fellowship where Haitian-Americans attended. My dry-cleaners are Persian; my mechanics are Italian-American and Polish-American. Why this mix? Because we all came here or our ancestors did, in search of opportunity, religious and political freedoms, and the fact that this is one of the most beautiful and modern countries in the world. America was founded on an idea and will be sustained by ideas.

I think about the First Amendment Rights: the right to speech, the right to assemble freely, the right of religious expression, the right to be free from a government imposed religion, the right to petition the government to address grievances and the freedom of the press. Two of those rights gives me the right to post this blog freely.

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, wrote: “With freedom comes responsibility.” Years later, JFK said in his inaugural address: “I look forward to a great future for America – a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.” Sadly, many feel today that America has not lived up to JFK’s stirring challenge.

Nevertheless, there plenty of problems and plenty of proposed solutions. As a Christian, I don’t think the solution is a political one. It is a moral one especially because so many people are willing to overturn right and wrong, to do in public what is shameful, all because it appeals to their sense of progress. I end with the words of C.S. Lewis about progress: 

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

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