It’s a still, sweltering day in Central Florida, and there is no evidence right now that this is America’s 236th anniversary. Nothing to remind me that on the Fourth of July, 1776, American colonists declared their independence from Britain, and started a chain of events that led to the creation of the world’s most powerful democracy.
Tonight will certainly be different. Fireworks will light up the sky over Lake Gibson. Dogs will howl. Cats will scurry to safety. Children will gasp in amazed delight.
And I know that while I sit here in my solitude and silence, parades are in progress across the nation, speeches resound and flags wave.
Americans everywhere are celebrating their freedom.
As I muse on America’s independence, I am reminded that in a few weeks, my native land – Jamaica – will be celebrating 50 years as a free country. I was there before Jamaica became independent. I was there before most Jamaicans could vote.
Looking back over those 50 years, I would be hard pressed to identify the material benefits of independence, but I know in my heart that no Jamaican would want to go back to colonial days.
What is it that makes us yearn for independence? Why are so many people willing to give up their security – even their lives – for freedom?
I do not know. But this I believe: The human heart values freedom above all else.
And our freedom is always under siege.
While the clouds reflect the rockets’ red glare tonight, there will be dark forces plotting our subjugation. Around the globe, enormously powerful people endlessly scheme to enhance their control by subduing others. It has always been like that; it will always be like that. Life is a constant contest, much of it beneath the surface.
The assault is being waged on numerous fronts: militarily, of course, but also more subtly, through economic manipulation and political machinations… Through religious initiatives, too. In most cases, religious proseletyzing is just another means of colonization.
Today in America, a political campaign rages. And the pundits tell us the crucial issue to be decided is the country’s economic wellbeing.
But there is more at stake than that.
There are forces at work that would undermine democracy and revoke the freedom for which the Founding Fathers paid so dearly. And these people are perversely disguised as the defenders of freedom and independence. You will surely see some of them waving the flag today, and hear some of them delivering stirring orations.
They will honor the troops and extol the virtues of war. And they will try to convince us that lies are the truth and that what we perceive as evil is actually good.
At times like this, we must hold fast to those truths that the Founding Fathers declared self-evident. And that means protecting the rights of others to preserve our own.
And we must remind ourselves of Andrew Jackson’s urgent warning: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”