The running lights from the boats scattered across the lake looked like a lightning bug invasion. There were dueling fireworks shows; the official Lake Murray display from Bomb Island and the Dreher Island effort several miles to the West.
This was the celebration of our nation’s birthday, Columbia boat people style. Blessing the fleets, dinner at the sailing club, and watching the fireworks, or relaxing on a sandbar with a blonde and some Budweiser, take your pick.
By the time the last silver sky burst faded into darkness, the blue flashing patrol boats looked like so many neon hummingbirds, hovering for an instant, then dashing to another location; trying to rein in overzealous partiers.
As we once again toast our forefathers for their actions in 1776, we seem to have lost focus about why we are America. Bumper stickers proclaim our pride and God-blessedness, but we lag behind most other developed nations in math, science, and history skills. Health care is mediocre, handgun violence is appalling, and we have allowed greed and celebrity to become dominant family values.
We proudly and reverently proclaim our allegiance to America by reciting a children’s pledge originally created to sell flags. Yet we refuse to participate in the most fundamental of our freedoms. Fewer than half of us are registered to vote and less than half of those registered bother to visit the polls on Election Day.
Americans have turned inward in search of much needed enemies to fuel our outrage and disdain. Where we once railed against Nazis and Commies, we now spew forth viciousness about each other. Libs, Wingnuts, Illegal Aliens, and government agencies now populate our fear fantasies.
We think freedom means forcing everyone else to believe as we do. Claiming a connection to the Founding Fathers, we are unwilling or incapable of understanding that compromise was the primary ingredient of the government those people created.
Travelers willingly remove their jackets and shoes, and then have their nail clippers and shampoo confiscated because a government official says it makes us safer. We also allow government snooping into our personal lives; phone calls, Emails, buying habits. Those in charge tell us no one is really abusing our privacy, and this also makes us safer. We accept this explanation without a whimper.
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Thomas Paine
“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” James Madison
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Ben Franklin
“Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppression of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day.” Thomas Jefferson
We gather each July Fourth to wave flags, swell with pride, eat and drink too much; but we seem to have lost the concept of why America was created. We still can consider ourselves the most powerful nation in the world but there is work to be done.
The sustained greatness of our nation depends on regular citizens realizing what we are, and doing what we must do to continue down the path originally trod by the guys we now see on our currency.