If the United States of America is your country, as it is my country, these are days when we celebrate the beginnings of our freedom. The great nearly always have complicated legacies. They may have gotten some big things right, for which we celebrate, but have gotten other important issues wrong. As citizens of this community, there is a time to weep and a time to rejoice. This year I recall the not-so-famous who had fewer choices to make, but got the biggest choices right.
Let me now praise common people in America that made that liberty possible.
I am thankful for the militia members that endured hardships so there could be an American people. From many nations and races, they saw hope in a free America and were willing to serve in the difficult cause of independence. One of my own ancestors was at Yorktown doing what he could for a great experiment: a vast republic forged from many very different states.
Let us praise common people who would not pay taxes without representation. They recognized that regular folk, and not just rulers, had property rights. The government could not force you to house troops against your will. Sovereignty was in the citizen, not the government.
We can honor those average folk who would not see a Constitution without a Bill of Rights. They demanded and ratified freedoms of speech, religion, the press, almost unprecedented to the point in human history.
We can celebrate the common solider that stood with Meade at Gettysburg and Grant at Vicksburg making for one of the most glorious Fourths in American history. The Fourth in 1863 saw the slaver’s rebellion doomed, thousands of Black Americans armed by the Union army, and full emancipation inevitable. Praise to the voters who ratified the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments that furthered liberty in this nation. I am thankful for the ancestors that fought, without fame but faithfully, for the Union in that horrible civil war.
Honor the citizens that pressed for women’s suffrage and then voted to approve that necessary liberty. Thank God for those average people who saw injustices in the Gilded Age, joined unions, and created necessary reforms.
Praise those voters who in the depths of the Great Depression against great temptation rejected demagogues in mass media, religion, and politics that would have pushed us toward fascism or communism.
May the memory be eternal of those GI Joes who helped end the Nazi regime in Europe. I am thankful for men like my Cousin Paul who served with distinction, but without fame.
Hail those average citizens, especially Black Americans, who pressed for full Civil Rights after World War II. Honor those that continue that work.
Much of the world owes greater freedom today to Americans who fought against an Iron Curtain and Soviet tyranny in a long Cold War. These average Americans did their duty, because they saw the ruthless nature of that expansionist regime, even if others did not.
So many average people got a big challenge right in their lifetime and contributed to a better Fourth. There is, obviously, more to do. Old evils continue, including injustices against First Nations and Black Americans. Newer evils have developed including the denigration of human life.
Let us honor older men and women who will join us at our feast and fireworks. They will tell us of good deeds and days in our Republic. This Fourth these righteous elders, our fathers and mothers, will tell us of good days whether at Selma, fleeing other tyrants and making a good home here, or feeding the poor and homeless.
Next week we know that such work must continue, doing justice, loving mercy. The Fourth must be made more glorious for more people and as wrongs are corrected. For these few days, however, it is pious to honor our people and the many ways they got some big things right.