Every year I say I’m going to go, but I always missed it for whatever reason. Finally this year I made it over to Washington Crossing Historical Park in Pennsylvania. Today was actually a dress rehearsal for the “real” reenactment that takes place every Christmas Day. I appreciate the volunteer reenactors sharing their love of history with the public.
The original crossing took place on December 25th and 26th, 1776. It was an act of desperation by General Washington that may have saved the American Revolution. Defeating the Hessian mercenaries in Trenton, and the subsequent victory at Princeton gave the faltering Revolution a new lease on life. It was such an important event in our nation’s history that it is well worth leaning about.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” the Declaration of Independence
140 years ago today, America declared its independence from Great Britain. A few years later, after tremendous sacrifice, we won that independence and gained a great amount of freedom. Today, we still have that independence, but sadly very little of that freedom. Over two centuries, but mostly in the fifty or so years, we have either traded away or sold our freedoms in the name of security and comfort. Even as we would not consciously give up our liberty, our government has found subtle ways to take it. It takes it in the form of a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy, unelected and accountable to virtually no one.
The Founding Fathers started this quest for freedom and it is one we have inherited. Freedom did not just happen to them, they had to take it. It will not just continue to happen for us, to keep it we will have to join that long line of patriots that began with Washington, Franklin, Adams, and the rest. To the extent we fight to keep ourselves free, we find ourselves in their distinguished company. The put their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line. Most of us are called upon merely to keep ourselves educated, remain vigilant, and vote. Maybe because it’s so much easier for us, we assume everyone or someone else will do it for us. Staying free will require our participation as individuals and collectively.
Those liberties that were hard-won by others are too easily lost by us. We should with that fact in mind, repurpose the fourth of July. Independence Day needs to be a day not just to celebrate our independence, but one that reminds us to recommit ourselves to those freedoms that this country gained by the Revolution, and all those won since. Maintaining these liberties is a constant struggle, and that sacred struggle is one that all Americans ought to take part in. We can do it in different ways, by activism, voting, sometimes just by letting those in power know we’re watching and paying attention. When you celebrate America’s independence, remember why it was in the first place that 140 years ago it was so important that so many risked so much for it. Remember and resolve to keep those American ideals alive in your thoughts and deeds for another year.