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Resolve to maintain, gain freedom for all

Resolve to maintain, gain freedom for all Resolve to maintain, gain freedom for all

In these disturbing times, it is important to have the joyful celebration ­of the Fourth of July. For many, this includes family picnics, fireworks and a day off from work.

In 1776, after the trials and suffering during our war for independence, our ancestors also needed to blow off some happy steam. It hadn’t been an easy and natural slide into forming a new country and attempting an innovative set of governmental guidelines. There were the ravages of war to overcome and a constitution to form after the victory. In neither case was everyone in agreement as to the route to take and how to institute the system chosen to govern.

Certainly, it is easiest to live in an echo chamber with only people and conditions with which you agree. But, no one is really free unless everyone else is free to execute their own ideas within the laws established by the consensus of the group being governed. That is a democracy.

We as a nation have just celebrated our new national holiday, Juneteenth. It reminds us that, although President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation outlawing slavery in 1863, some Texans of color were not informed of this until June 19, 1865. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon Reed explains: “Freedom had come in legal terms, but the story was not as clear on the ground as it was on paper.” Gordon-Reed urges people to reflect during the weeks between June 19 and Independence Day on the fact that “not everyone got their freedom in 1776.” The truth is, a lot of black people were left out of the original draft of the U.S. Constitution. Even during the post-Civil War era and up until the civil rights movement of the 1950s, Jim Crow laws forced black people to live, work and play separately. Being on the books and being practiced in real life are two different things.

In 2022, we are still wrestling with racial, ethnic and gender inequities and discord.

Many battles are raging in our country on political and social issues. Hard lines have been drawn in the sand between conservatives and liberals. We are finding it hard to build a consensus between groups with differing ideologies and practices. Our constitution was written with “checks and balances”: a legislative branch, a judicial branch and an administrative branch. The intent was to prevent the takeover by an autocratic system that enforced a singular world view and prohibited freedom of speech. Our country is proud of its democracy that is based on the rule of law that is the result of the consent of the majority of the governed.

It is easy to see the threat of dysfunction in governance when we address the issues in Ukraine. We can identify the culprit: Vladimir Putin, the autocratic president of Russia. We realize that, as his armies invade Ukraine, a recognized independent democracy, he is indeed setting a precedent for future conquests. We, as members of the world community, are responding with weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The $5-a-gallon-gas at the pump is a small additional price for us to pay compared to loss of life, homeland and liberty paid by those in the war zone. Their battles are being fought to save freedom for self governance in all nations.

It has been said that “history is just one darn thing after another.” That is probably true. This is no Garden of Eden, but the thirst for freedom can never be satisfied because as soon as a society becomes complacent freedom is gone.

We need to be engaged in the current events. Open discussion, a free and active press, and civil action and advocacy are part of the living organism we call democracy. Riots and lawless acts are not listed as productive participation.

This Fourth of July, we as a planet have been through a lot of trials with everything from a virus pandemic, declining environmental conditions, outbreaks of gun violence and economic uncertainties, plus social and political disagreements.

So, how about this? Live it up on this Fourth of July; eat too much, shoot off some fireworks and take long naps. Then, on July 5, get up fortified and determined to be part of this march to maintain and gain freedom for all.

What do you think your grandkids will wish you had done when you had your chance to make a difference in their future? Are the agreed upon set of laws going to stay merely “on the books” or are they going to be a vibrant and living part of our everyday lives?

Compromise and consensus are not outdated words. They are fundamental to forming and keeping a democracy. “We the people” certainly encompasses a whole lot of differing ideas and practices. How do we make it work? In the here and now, that is our million-dollar question.