The 4th of July has always been, and will always be, one of my very favorite holidays. I have always loved history, and learning about our Founding Fathers, flaws & all, inspired me to believe that being an American is an honor & privilege.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence, much scrutinized, criticized, and mythologized (new word of the day?), were men of great courage. Whatever their personal background, religious beliefs, occupations, fortunes, or reputations – they all came together in one common belief and decided to stand in the face of tyranny, despite the probable hardship it would cause each of them and likely, their families.
I have to wonder if they had even a SMALL clue of what their stand would mean in the end – TRULY. Knowing that John Hancock signed his name in such a large flourish, not because he was conceited or had a high opinion of himself, but because he wanted to ensure that King George could read his name without the use of glasses, makes me laugh out loud. Not because it is funny, but because he had some big cajones. This man wanted to be sure that King George could name him a “traitor” without any hesitation or doubt. In many ways, I enjoy the irony and “nah-nah-nah-na-nah-nah” attitude he took.
Our Founding Fathers have come under much criticism – especially lately – because at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence they did not outlaw slavery or press for women’s rights. But what these men did, in fact, was to ensure that those issues could be addressed later: by the people, and for the people. It is impossible to expect that they would have addressed every injustice in one document, and they hoped that this was only the beginning. And it was. In fact, they changed the world – as they knew it and as we know it now. I believe they did it for themselves and their children – but I don’t think they could have understood just how fully they impacted the millions who came after.
I work for a man who fled Nazi invasion as a child with his family in the 1950’s from Hungary. Tyrrany & oppression & death. The story of his escape to America is really amazing and always touches my heart. Peter Schramm has lived in America for most of his life, and still laughs and shakes his heads at “You Americans” when we engage in our very American way of life. My favorite part of Peter’s story is this:
My mother tells me, though I don’t remember saying this, that I told my father I would follow him to hell if he asked it of me. Fortunately for my eager spirit, hell was exactly what we were trying to escape and the opposite of what my father sought.
“But where are we going?” I asked.
“We are going to America,” my father said.
“Why America?” I prodded.
“Because, son. We were born Americans, but in the wrong place,” he replied.
Peter cries for America. He calls himself an American, but has a profound respect for those of us born here. He is both our greatest supporter and loudest critic for what we Born Americans do with the great heritage we’ve been given in our country. You can read the rest of his story here: http://www.ashbrook.org/publicat/onprin/special/schramm.html
I was raised by a man, a Marine who PROUDLY served his country, in a war that nearly ripped America apart. Where previous wars had produced “soldier heroes” who came home to parades, Vietnam produced “soldier baby-killers” who came home to spitting & disrespectful protestors. I don’t share the belief that Vietnam soldiers were a disgrace to their country, although I have read many books & articles on the subject and understand only a small portion of the horror that the Vietnam War inflicted on the nation of Vietnam and the Americans who were called to serve there.
I am not here to convince anyone of anything about the Vietnam War, but neither will I tolerate the questioning of the patriotism and love of country any Vietnam veteran professes. My dad carries scars from the war, both seen and unseen, both blatantly obvious (as is his diabetes from exposure to Agent Orange) and well-hidden under layers and layers of self-protective defense mechanisms. I will never understand even a small part my dad went through – but I understand his motivation because I asked him about it. I understand that his time served was based on a deeply-rooted sense of honor & pride & obligation to His Country and to the Freedom it stands for.
Of the very rare and few times I have seen my father cry, all but ONCE, he cried about his love for his country. He wore his uniform with pride as he served in both the USMC and USAF, and regardless of what school textbooks and “experts” have to say about Vietnam, I know my dad is a Hero and a Patriot, and I celebrate this day especially for him.