Independence Day is not about fireworks (and other rainy day musings)

We had such grand plans for today, this Independence Day 2013. Wilmore, the small town near us, has a wonderful calendar full of events celebrating the day: starting with a parade which includes the world-renowned lawn mower brigade and continuing with a festival that features food, pony rides, face painting, and other fun activities. We have joined in for the past few years and love the easy accessibility and small-town feel of the day. Alas, today’s festivities were cancelled as of 8:00 am, when the forecast confirmed our fears: rain, and buckets full of it. I was met with sad faces all around when I shared the bad news with the six pack, who had long awaited the celebration. Plan B became necessary, however, as the rain continued and escalated to a steady, soaking downpour.
In other words, it was a major bummer, dude. The rainy day, though, has given me the chance to think upon the importance of the a bit more. Before all else, I love my country and am proud to be an American. After studying other civilizations and cultures, I only become more convinced at how set apart we are as a country and how we are truly unlike any other. The country was founded by great yet imperfect men, following God’s will and providence, and has the distinction none other can claim. Politics aside, we are exceptional. And yet, recently, troubling (to say the least) events have transpired to cause discontent and concern for the country we established ourselves as on July 4, 1776. I fervently desire that my children will inherit an America that is strong, still firm in the bulwark of the Constitution–a document unlike any other in its simplicity and breadth, and unwavering in its belief that the phrase ‘all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator certain inalienable rights’ is still a self-evident truth.
I am guarded in my celebratory nature today as I read through the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson. He did not live during the same tumultuous times as we do, yet he was among those men who decided that it was worth risking their lives and fortunes for something larger than themselves, the establishment of a new and sovereign nation. Do we have that same Spirit of ’76 yet today? Or have we slowly given it up in exchange for laziness or complacency? Jefferson wrote, “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” We are now promised to “be taken care of” by our government, whether by means of a phone, a house payment, health care, or any number of other items. This is at base a fundamental difference between this American and her government. I do not believe that it is the job of the government to take care of me, lest I become beholden to it. There are advertisements on the radio that tell me “You deserve air conditioning!” or “Let us put you in the car you deserve!” When did I start deserving air conditioning? I know that as a kid, I begged my dad to turn it on during those muggy summer nights, but I don’t know that even then I deserved it. If I can afford to pay my electric bill that comes from having the A/C on, then I believe I have earned the privilege to run it. Do I deserve a cell phone? Seriously?
As a parent, these are direct discrepancies to what Todd and I are trying to teach our kids. We want our kids to have a strong work ethic and not be afraid to put in a hard day’s work, whether it be at their school desk, digging a ditch, taking someone’s order at the fast food place, or folding laundry in the basement where no one can see them. “Hard work done daily feels good,” a friend once shared with me. What a profound truth. Even in their small sphere of experience, they have learned how different it feels to pay for something themselves versus having it dropped in their laps. The three boys who have pursued and achieved Memory Master status know that it takes hard work to reach goals, and hard work is not a four-letter word (or even two four-letter words put together). My prayer is that my kids grow up not to shirk at work, but to embrace whatever needs to be done.
However, I am daily confronted with human nature times six (or seven if you count me, and I’m probably the worst offender). Human nature wants the easy way out, the path of least resistance, and it can be a constant struggle to squelch that voice telling them “just enough is OK” and promote the quieter voice that whispers “go the extra mile.” For the boys, I pray that they will have the work ethic to provide for their families and to take pride in their careers. For the girls, if they become mothers, they will need the discipline that the 24/7 job requires. When someone else pays the bills, the propensity to dependency is so difficult to fight. Helping out someone in need is quite different than keeping them from pulling themselves out of the despair. It’s not always easy. In fact, most of the time it’s harder than just about anything. It means making tough choices, such as “can I afford a cell phone?” or “can I have the new car or the used one that is held together with duct tape and a prayer?” I believe starting out with no cell phone and a jalopy can help us to see where we are, realize that we don’t want to stay there, and work to move ourselves to a better place.
I humbly submit that with some reports boasting that half of American households are on some sort of government assistance, we are not teaching personal responsibility in large numbers. We are teaching that the government can easily take care of us, so why should we exert the effort? Why not let them provide for us? How dangerous a national sentiment is that. Again, I’m reminded of Jefferson: “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” We are obliged in some way or another to those who provide for us. Because the government is run by men and women, and men and women are fallen creatures by nature, without proper checks and balances (which seem to be largely ignored in the last generation), fallen creatures with power will almost certainly run amuck. “A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” Let us remember that we have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” not whatever the government can promise to provide for us. We throw around words like constitutionality, but I believe we are not teaching young Americans the entirety and beauty of the document. Instead, we are using it for our own benefits at best, and prancing upon it at worst. Patrick Henry astutely proclaimed that “the Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” With revelations of intrusions upon our personal liberties and threats to strip us of basic constitutional rights that are all over the media, this truth is more profound and important than ever. Have we already gone too far in that direction? Has it already succeeded in dominating our lives and interests?

No doubt there are many who disagree at the most basic levels with my beliefs. Such is life, and Benjamin Franklin said “but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I shall refrain on my diatribe against taxes for the time being. The older I get, the more I realize that worldviews can be extremely divergent, and if they start to separate at the base of the argument, there is almost no hope of them ever conjoining again. I will be the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers and have not figured anything out. But for me and my house, we are going to strive to seek God’s will and plan for our lives. Micah 6:8 reads, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We are going to learn the history of our great nation and work to the best of our ability to uphold the pillars of our country and the foundation of its formation. We shall try to the best of our ability to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, conquerors in the constant war against apathy, and others centered. I pray that the liberty we began with will not be taken away from us with the faulty and impossible promise of something better. The freedoms were bestowed upon us, but the responsibility is now ours alone.

Responsibility is the price of freedom. Elbert Hubbard

God bless America.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. John Fennell
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 09:49:33

    I am constantly amazed by my daughter!!!!!!!  What truly profound words. This needs to be published and not just on your website.   Truly astounded thoughts and so well expressed, but what do you expect – that’s my daughter expressing her thoughts and beliefs!!!!!   We had a quiet day. The nurse came and did her evaluation, then stacy came and did her physical therapy evaluation and gave me some things to do until she comes on Monday. She will come 3 times aweek until I am ready for out patient therapy. I do not need a home nurse, as I can do everything she would come to do. Tom came and we had hot dogs for dinner (not my choice) but they were good. I can now walk 3 houses down toward Frazho.   Love, Mom

    Janice Fennell


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