Firework, flags, barbecue, hot dogs and watermelon, cold beverages and a paid day off —all are symbols and fixtures of the Fourth of July.
They represent more than just one day out of a year, though. Each of the aforementioned items are reasons why we celebrate the Fourth — our Independence Day — but they can serve as reminders of what the holiday, and being a part of this country, is all about.
When we look up to the sky on Monday night, we’ll see the bright colors and hear the celebratory explosions overhead that represent celebration of the soldiers of Fort McHenry withstanding the “bombs bursting in air” during the War of 1812. As the fireworks fly overhead, we are reminded of our own resilience in the fight for what we believe in.
As we get closer to Independence Day, more and more flags are flying around town, with their stars reminding us of the 50 states, while the bold red and stark white stripes remind us of the 13 colonies that America started from.
Those colonies bonded together to protest a heavy-handed government. When that government remained indifferent and entrenched in its own superiority, the Colonists knew it was time to rebel, pushed beyond their patience with their mother country.
Among the most popular ways to celebrate the Fourth of July is a barbecue, a chance to slow things down and step away from the television and other modern-day distractions. Every once in a while it’s best if we all unplug and use our minds, so that ground-breaking ideas such as a democracy that works can be had.
When we drink a cold beverage on July 4, remember there have been two times Americans took a stand through beverages: once in the 18th Century when patriots dumped tea in the Boston Harbor to protest unfair taxes and, again, when 20th Century Americans both fought for the right not to drink and, roughly 15 years later of experiences with the rise of gangsters and the loss of tax revenue, for the right to make alcohol consumption legal, again. If you’re sipping a cold drink this summer, remember that as Americans we can make drastic change, not just as consumers but as voters and members of a community.
While we all celebrate Monday without working, we can also be thankful that we have the opportunity to make a living and determine (at least in some aspects) how we make that living. A day off to celebrate may not have been possible without the sacrifice of our Veterans. Nor would it be possible without the passion of those who struggled for workplace safety and the five-day work week and against child labor and workplace discrimination.
All of these symbols serve as excellent reminders of why we should be grateful to celebrate the independence of Americans.
But, equally important, they should serve as reminders of why we shouldn’t stop fighting for independence.
That may not mean enlisting in the Army (or dumping the latest overtaxed, imported beverage into the harbor). But we should all use the tools we have to continue the pursuit of happiness.
Those tools include having a free press that reports on what our government is doing – whether it be approving the latest rezoning, prosecuting criminal activity, or balancing the budget. Social media cannot take the place of what our forefathers envisioned as a checks-and-balances system to keep our form of government running smoothly, honestly, and effectively. Being an informed citizen is a powerful tool provided through the fight for independence.
Those tools also include voting for our representation. While we acknowledge that the right to vote has not always been extended to every citizen, the power of that right to vote has been unquestionable from the beginning.
It seems, to us, odd that most of the 105,000 Newton County residents would celebrate patriotism by spending money enjoying those things that symbolize American independence when, come July 26, only about 4 percent will exercise a right those earlier patriots fought for – the right to vote and have a say in our government.
Newton County has a run-off election for a Republican representative in District 5, the Democratic candidate for county chair, and a Democratic candidate for Senator in the state capitol.
Every chance to participate in something that was fought for so hard is a chance we should act on.
Take time on the Fourth of July to celebrate and remember how we got here. But we encourage you to also take time to act so that future generations can continue to remember why they celebrate our Independence Day.