JIM CREES: Independence Day is about ALL of us
Independence Day is certainly a time of celebration.
I wouldn’t even begin to suggest the parades, fireworks, and grand parties in local parks in any way detract from the solemnity of the day.
Independence Day always was, is today, and will continue to be a great reason for a party. It is with family, friends, and neighbors we best celebrate the freedoms we have and liberties we enjoy.
Still, at some time during the day, at some point in the merrymaking, it might be well to consider what this is all about.
Independence Day is surely a celebration of the historic events that gave birth to us as a nation -— a separation from British rule and a dissolution of our relationship with king and crown.
At the same time, we should be thinking about what all this independence, freedom, and liberty stuff really means for us all today. We should be thinking gently and kindly about the life we have as a nation, and our own place as individuals in this mix.
As human beings, we tend to measure everything against a scale of “me.” Despite however hard we try, just about everything that happens directly or indirectly is weighed through personal experience, preference, and prejudice.
This is true not only in civil and civic affairs, but also in every area of life — including our religious beliefs. In the practice of our faith, we generally “humanize” God and more often make Him fit our own human understanding rather than really striving to fit His will to our lives.
From every place on the human scale of belief, we place God firmly where we are at any given point. God more often is made to fit our wants, then we are ready to fit His plan.
So too, in our civil lives.
We tend to define independence, freedom, liberty, and justice by how those concepts seem appropriate to us at any immediate point in time.
We too often consider these concepts as exclusive to our situation, applicable only to our nation, and defined best by our own lives and wants.
Not at all unlike how we read the Bible, we look at the Constitution of these United States, and test and measure it against the comforts or demands of our own lives.
We far too often declare some silliness as “ ...my right” based on a misunderstanding of the concepts handed down by the Founders and Framers.
Both in our private lives and in the public square we ignore historical context, and basically claim the fathers of this country were prophets at best, and magicians at worst since every thing they said or wrote was and is immediately applicable to our time and place.
Just as we shouldn’t be translating the Bible to fit our individual wants, so we should not be manipulating and contorting the Constitution to fit our every desire.
The fact of life is, the authors of the expressions of our national faith creed — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and other historical documents — were anticipating the time in which they lived and their immediate future.
When they wrote about the freedoms of speech and expression, they hardly anticipated the Internet and the wholesale marketing of national secrets electronically.
When they wrote of the need for an armed public as part of a “well-regulated militia” they weren’t even dreaming of a national obsession with high-powered assault rifles.
When they wrote of a right to freedom from unregulated search and seizure, they couldn’t even imagine a situation in which the state could be listening to virtually every conversation we carried out with neighbors and friends.
When they used the word “gay” it had to do with holiday clothing and a festive state of mind at family gatherings.
So... just as in needing to be extremely careful in how we translate the Bible to fit our needs, so too we should be exceptionally cautious in how we manipulate the Constitution and the words of the Founders to satisfy our wants.
Most importantly, we need to understand that no matter where we stand on the political plain, none of us have an exclusive claim to the Constitution (or the Bible for that matter).
Neither conservatives nor liberals have some divine right to the Constitution.
As painful as it may seem to some of us, liberty, equality, justice, freedom, and the civil and civic rights bestowed on us by the Constitution and later legislation are for ALL of us — conservative and liberal; man and woman; white, black, brown, yellow, and gray; gay or straight; ALL of us.
It would be well at this Independence Day, that we consider our interdependence.
Despite our national tendency to be tough and individualistic, in the end we all need each other.
At the end of the day, I believe that was the message the Founders were trying to get across when they penned “We The People.”
They were talking about the “all of us” back then, with an anticipation for the “all of us” today.
It might be well to think a bit about that as we celebrate Independence Day.
Then... crank up the grill, shoot off a bottle rocket or two, and head downtown for a parade.
It’s a party!!!
Happy Independence Day.