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Lyons: Freedom’s just another word for nothing we don’t choose

Published: Thursday, July 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Hope you’re getting your flag on today. Run it up the pole. Fly it from the back of your Harley-Davidson. Slip on your Apollo Creed trunks and stick your toes in the kiddie pool.

The Fourth of July is a favorite holiday because it is distinctly American. Smack in the middle of summer and bookended by the solemn Memorial Day and Labor Day, which we celebrate mainly by not working.

Maybe the northern part of our country loves July 4th even more because of the months of miserable weather it took us to get here. We get the most out of each summer day, even if that means pyrotechnics and explosions that go way too late for a weeknight, because the Founding Fathers would have wanted it that way.

For our family, the Fourth is always a chance to celebrate with friends and neighbors, some of whom we don’t see enough in the summer because our children have been enlisted by the Youth Sports Army.

We can see the Woodstock fireworks well from our backyard and have declared our independence from cooler searches at Emricson Park. You’re welcome to have a beer in my yard, because this is still ‘Merica.

As historically significant as July 4, 1776, is, there’s also something cool and subversive about a Declaration of Independence more than two centuries later. It’s got a country song “Take this Commonwealth and Shove it” vibe to it.

This wasn’t just lip service, a phone call to a talk-radio station or a rally in front of the Target store with a nifty “Don’t Tread on Me” poster board sign. This was considered an act of treason in England and the spark that ignited the Revolutionary War.

In the modern history of the world, the United States is no longer unique as a nation that decided to remove its previous management. But these guys laid the groundwork for starting from scratch and birthing a nation.

We reflect on those days and consider how this declaration later led to the Constitution that still guides government on all levels. Although, it’s always been a work in progress.

While the Founding Fathers knew much and learned from previous mistakes, slavery still was legal and profitable, Native Americans were not considered human beings, and women were mainly devoid of any rights.

French historian Alexis de Tocqueville was full of fascinating observations on this American experiment. Like a journalist, he had healthy skepticism about many things but was optimistic about what he saw.

“America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement,” de Tocqueville wrote.

We’d be hard-pressed today to say that “every change seems an improvement,” but we’d also likely be stuck staring at one dying tree while the forest keeps growing.

Unless you still wear wool underwear and powdered wigs, which you’re free to do in the Land of Liberty, most things have improved since 1776.

There are plenty of points to argue, and we still can fix things that need improvement. Progress that matters will always take courage, wisdom and persistence.

This distinct nation still is loaded with those attributes, which is reason enough to celebrate today.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH. 

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