Today, like many of you, I will be gathering with family to commemorate the foundation of our country. This day should be about more than hamburgers and hot dogs, although spending time with family is a great American tradition. Today should be a time of reflection, reflection of where we have come from and where we are going not just as individuals but as a nation.
The last few days I have been engaged in research in Boston. Yesterday I walked across town, through the Public Gardens and Boston Common and started to think about all that these two places in Boston had seen over the years. Boston Common was the place where the Militia trained and continues to be a place where protests are held for a variety of reasons, and area of true freedom and democracy.
I was also struck by the variety of people walking around Boston. I have always liked to people watch, I find people fascinating to watch, and yesterday was no exception to the rule. Boston has become a very international city and it was certainly reflected in the faces that I saw walking around. I am certain that some of those had escaped their homeland with a desire to breathe the air of freedom that America offers.
I stopped in at the Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street, the third oldest cemetery in Boston. This is the final resting place of Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and other Patriots of the Revolution. Standing there, among all of those who sacrificed so much for our freedom, I started to ask myself where today’s patriots are.
Some of you may disagree with me, but we are losing more and more of our freedoms every day. Air travel has become a hassle, email and other online communication is being read, secret courts, laws against protesting, laws restricting the use and ownership of fire arms, uncontrollable taxation from Washington and other places. Some of these are the very same things that drove the Patriots to the uprising against the government of the day. I am not suggesting armed conflict; in fact I am suggesting just the opposite. The Patriots used their minds, their pens, and their voices to exact change in America and to bring forth a new nation. The Revolution in armed conflict, it was actually a Civil War, was a last resort.
There were great gatherings, right here in Boston and other great cities, where both sides would argue the situation of the day. Great orators would speak with eloquent terms and have real debates all we have today is intolerance from both sides and 140 character statements online. We need real debate, adult debate; in America we have real problems that need real solutions!
Again, some of you will disagree with this, but religion, specifically Christianity is also under attack here in America. Certainly not in the way it is in Syria and Egypt and other countries in the Middle East, but in much more subtle ways. Last year’s ruling by the Health and Human Services that corporations, even religious institutions need to provide free contraception to their employees flies in the face of this freedom. Sure, churches continue to be exempt for now, but hospitals, schools, and other such organizations run by churches must provide this type of insurance even if it means violating our beliefs. Some would say, well you take federal money, I am would say that there have always been religious exemptions in many areas. The Quakers and the Amish are exempt from the draft and registering with Selective Service because of their strong objection to war. I fully support the right of anyone to use contraception, but why should I have to pay for something that I object to on religious and moral grounds. This is just one example.
Freedom is a precious thing and freedom is something that thousands have given their lives for. Freedom is not easily gained but it is easily lost.
This week also saw the 150th Anniversary of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War at Gettysburg. We can argue over the cause of the Civil War and to reduce it down to one issue does a disservice to those who fought, but the chief issue was freedom. Freedom of a people enslaved and freedom from the tyranny of a central government run amuck. America, since it’s very founding, has always been a free nation. Those who hate us hate us for that very reason, our freedom. We have sent our military around the globe because we believe that it is an inalienable right that all people are free and created equal. We believe in freedom of speech, of the press and of religion, not just here but everywhere and many have died on the beaches, deserts, and hill tops of other nations to protect that very sense of freedom.
Walking the streets of Boston, the very cradle of our freedom, got me to thinking about all of this. How the signers of the Declaration of Independence feared for their lives and snuck in and out of Philadelphia to place their names on a document that was considered treasonous and a document that had never before been written, setting the course of a new form of government where freedom was the watchword!
On this day, this day of Independence, take some time to reflect upon the great cost of our freedom. The ability for me to write these words and the ability of some to object them is enshrined in that freedom. We need to keep freedom alive as so many others are looking toward us as an example of freedom like the people of Egypt and Syria. Let us celebrate that freedom today and never forget what it has cost us.