What does the Fourth of July really mean?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Depending where we live in Southwest Nebraska, we might not be able to shoot off fireworks Wednesday, or water the lawn at the wrong time of day. We can't let our dog run free, or let the weeds in our yard go unmowed all summer.

But Independence Day is a good time to be grateful for the freedoms we do have -- the examples above are the exception, not the rule. And, the Fourth of July is a good day to remember that our freedoms can be taken away if we are not diligent to guard them for ourselves and others.

The founding fathers spelled them out in the Bill of Rights:

* Freedom of religion -- go to church anywhere you want, or stay home. No one can tell you where to go, what to believe or prevent you from believing it or nothing at all.

* Freedom of speech -- Say what and listen to what others have to say. Of course, you'll have to live with the consequences if you hurt someone else.

* Freedom of the press -- The same goes for writing what you want, and sharing it with the world. If you read or hear something that is false, it's your duty to set the record straight.

* Freedom of assembly -- Hold a meeting, discuss problems and plan solutions, in a peaceful manner, of course.

* Own a gun -- The right of responsible citizens to own firearms has been part of our nation since the beginning. Colonists also reserved the right not to offer a bed to British soldiers.

* Be treated fairly by the courts. You have a right to know what law you have supposedly broken, be tried in public with all the facts and testimony in plain view.

* Own private property.

* Live and travel anywhere in our nation, work anywhere we can land a job, marry whomever we want and have children, attend a public school and belong to any political party, union or other legal organization we choose.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence knew what they were doing, trading the security of loyalty to the king for the potential disaster of losing a war of rebellion as well as no guarantee freedom could be maintained even if they should win.

We're still struggling with that question.

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