The Fourth of July is the unofficial kickoff of summer for most of us. It's a time for celebration of freedom and independence afforded by the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
That remarkable document, its signers and the American Revolution have become a part of folklore, the realities of our forefather's struggle for freedom from England lost in time.
Time should not stop us from treasuring and defending our independence, from foreign governments and from our own. Teachers in classrooms today avoid belaboring the words "freedom" or "independence" - apparently they're pass?- preferring to teach students about "democracy." Our president seems to prefer the word democracy, too, forgetting that we don't live in a democracy, but in a constitutional republic of laws and process that involves representative governments chosen in democratic elections.
Our republic is a society in which supreme power resides with the citizens entitled to vote for their elected officers and representatives, men and women who are responsible to the people and who pledge to govern according to law. The majority rules only through that complex process of checks and balances that keeps any individuals, or any government branch, from having too much control.
Fewer than three years before the signing of our declaration, colonialists made clear they would not be taxed and regulated in violation of the law or by those whom they did not elect. On Dec. 16, 1773, they boarded three ships loaded with overtaxed tea and dumped it into Boston Harbor. They knew freedom wasn't a gift of government, but a manifestation of strength. Freedom was something Americans would have to fight for and vigilantly defend, even giving their lives for the defense of future generations.
Today, nearly 240 years after the signing of our Declaration, our system of limited government works well. Yes, government spies on us by tracking our phone calls. Yes, government spies on journalists who are supposed to be free of and protected from government censors. Yes, government taxes and regulates us far too much. Yes, government uses tax collectors to silence individuals with certain views.
The system isn't perfect, but we do keep it in check. If it weren't for a Constitution that works, those who complained about the IRS, the NSA or the White House would not be free to complain. They would have no recourse in the press or the courts or the court of public opinion. In lesser societies, whistle-blowers are killed, forgotten and never heard from again.
American society is far from perfect today, but it has never been perfect. It has only been the best system on earth. We keep it the best by celebrating independence, and all that it stands for, and by exercising it with knowledge and indefatigable defense of law.
The day we lose our embrace of freedom, and the day we stop policing the powers of a government elected to serve us, is the day we lose this great country and everything it was founded to protect.
So today we should stop for a moment to digress from the fireworks and food and remember independence - from foreign governments and our own. Ours is a republic of law, in which the individual reigns supreme by electing and funding a government founded to uphold liberty and justice for all.