This is from my column in the Albert Lea Tribune on July 4, 2016. I believe we are so fortunate to live where we live and have the freedoms we do.
Rapper 50 Cent was arrested for swearing in public during a performance in St. Kitts in the Caribbean. In the United States we have the freedom to use whatever language we choose in public.
In the United States it is not illegal to burn the flag. In Argentina, Article 222 of the Penal Code criminalizes public desecration of the national flag, coat of arms, national anthem or any provincial symbol imposing one to four years of imprisonment.
We have the right to bear arms. In the People’s Republic of China gun ownership is heavily regulated and private citizens are not allowed to possess guns and penalties for arms trafficking include death.
It is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. I wonder how many of our young people know the reason for our holiday. Independence Day is a federal holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress. It was declared on this day in 1776 that the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation. We became the United States of America, separating ourselves from the British empire.
The world has changed many times over since the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Living in the United States of America has changed over the years; we have progressed and some might say that some forms of expression have regressed.
In my early years, people didn’t burn the flag — they respected the flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was said every morning to remind us of the freedoms we experienced and to show respect for our country.
Now swearing is rampant in everyday society. It is hard to walk down the street without swearing being heard in one form or another. Yet in other countries it is a crime and punishable by prison.
Social media, the news and the subject of gun control dominate conversations arguing the rights of our citizens with people voicing their opinions loudly, not caring who is disrespected.
My point is this — Independence Day, when our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they broke free so that we have the freedom to swear in public, whether others like it or not. We have the freedom to desecrate our flag, whether others feel it is disrespectful to our country or not. We have the right to bear arms no matter how high the murder rate becomes. We have the right to bash our leaders and each other because we live in a free country. Life may have been much different if the Declaration of Independence were not signed. We may not have the freedoms I just described.
We take our freedom for granted and because of it we abuse those freedoms that were supposed to be for the good of the people so that we could pursue a life of liberty and happiness.
As you are out celebrating the day, take a few moments to be thankful for the freedoms we have, and to appreciate those freedoms and our country. In all the loudness of confrontation we forget to appreciate that which our forefathers protected.
Celebrate the day. Shout for joy. Let the fireworks begin and celebrate our great country. If you get a moment take the time to sing the national anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or read the Declaration of Independence to remind yourself what the day is all about – our freedoms.