A few days ago, a friend told me she used to love celebrating July 4th, but the last few years have brought more sadness than joy to that holiday.
Listening to her, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her sorrow. July 4th arrives in the middle of the summer, but rain or shine, for many of us, I suspect, a cloud now hangs over this day and what should be a celebration of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The reasons for this unhappiness lie all around us. Inflation is eating up our salaries and savings, and the pandemic with its masks, lockdowns, and closures of businesses, schools, and churches haunts our memories.
Moreover, we get the impression that the administration and certain departments of the federal government are playing a game of deflection rather than addressing issues. A classic example can be found in the rising tide of violence in our major cities. To great hullabaloo, the Congress passed, and President Biden signed, more gun control laws—as if we didn’t have enough of those on the books. These include “red flag” laws, which encourage some Americans to snitch on others whom they regard as dangerous. These may prevent some shootings, but they also constitute yet another step toward Big Brotherism. And does anyone—anyone—really believe these regulations will reduce urban gunplay?
Even worse, however, is the darkness we sense rather than see falling across our country, the invisible malaise that stalks our land like a specter. Some in our government, for instance, criticize American liberties and ideals, but how many praise the American spirit and the great men and women of her past? How many of us can remember a time when the president, his staff, or certain members of Congress encouraged American know-how or patriotism? Moreover, we get the impression that the administration and certain departments of the federal government are playing a game of deflection rather than addressing issues.
All these factors, and more, have left many of us feeling down in the mouth about July 4th.
I don’t have any magical formula to dispel that gloom, but as I considered my friend’s sadness, I thought of some words spoken by Benjamin Franklin during the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” By this, Franklin meant that the delegates must gather round and remain loyal to the Declaration and the cause of liberty as well as to one another if they were to win their freedom. His was also a grim reminder that the men who fixed their names to that document were signing their death warrants if their cause was lost.
But I recommend adding a different twist to Franklin’s remark that may at least pierce our present-day shadows with some much-needed rays of sunlight.
For months now, I’ve read articles giving some tips about ways to fight back against the mess we’re in. Some encourage readers to get involved in politics, such as running for local school boards; some advocate making the home a countercultural fortress of affection, family, and culture; others stress various means of education to offset the propaganda of our schools and media.
And many of these cheerleaders urge us to drop our digital devices and meet friends and family in the flesh as much as possible, sharing a coffee at a café, throwing a potluck in the home, volunteering at the library or a pregnancy center.
In other words, they’re encouraging us to “hang out” with real people.
By hanging, of course, Franklin was thinking of a gallows and a noose, but I find his words, if we employ modern slang, pertinent today. If we “hang” with those we love, or others with similar interests and like persuasions, our conversations, our laughter, and some shared food and drink should act as vitamins boosting our strength in the face of the madness that today stalks our country.
This Independence Day, let’s make it our aim to gather with those who love America, whatever their politics, who appreciate and treasure its riches, and who don’t feel ashamed to put a flag on their porch or blow off a few fireworks.
As that old Greek stoic Epictetus wrote, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
Let’s make sure this year we mark our country’s greatest holiday with good company, good food and drink, and with as good a spirit as possible.
To remember and celebrate this momentous day is in itself a blow for freedom.
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