The Fourth of July brings lots of feelings out in people across this land. Most people get some shiver of patriotism up their spine this time of year. When we think of that time nearly a quarter of a millennium ago we admire from afar those gallant men who put their fortunes and their lives on the line to throw off the shackles of control from a long off king. Through study, thought and meetings with like minds, leaders from throughout the colonies made a decision that it was worth rebelling against a king and possibly losing all including their lives for a concept they called “freedom.”
As we reflect on what these men (and to some degree women) did long ago most of us have formed some opinion of what “freedom” means to us. But as we all know just because some freedoms are spelled in the Constitution or mentioned in the document we celebrate Friday, it does not mean that they are available to all in real life. Nor does it mean that there may not be any restrictions on anything.
Our history is rampant with stories of various groups fighting to attain the freedoms that are supposed to be given as a birthright in this country. The citizenship which we now associate with being born in this country was hard won for the black segmant of our society. One of the bloodiest wars ever, our Civil War was fought and won to give that segment freedom and citizenship. But entrenched power never gives up their power easily. Therefore, even though on paper slaves were freed nearly 150 years ago, there is still an ongoing battle to win the full rights that citizens should own as a birthright.
Last Tuesday night PBS had a great documentary on Freedom Summer detailing the struggle for blacks to attain the rights of citizens which started to come to ahead fifty years ago. Every on that admires the original founding fathers should also keep the freedom fighters, their predecessors and successor in the same thought. These men and women endured daily threats and reprisals and more reprisals long into the future to help fulfill the promises of the Declaration of Independence.
All they wanted and all that we also should want as the birthday of our country is celebrated is to have the the rights of a first class citizen of the United States, no matter who you are or what you believe. This may come as a surprise to some, but there are those in this country who are still fighting extremely hard to keep segments of our citizens in a second class limbo by denying their right to vote or their access to health care or decent schools or to love whom they wish to.
As with many things political in this country, Franklin Roosevelt understood what the common American wanted. In what has become known as his “Four Freedoms” speech, Roosevelt stated:
For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
* Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
* Jobs for those who can work.
* Security for those who need it.
* The ending of special privilege for the few.
* The preservation of civil liberties for all.
* The enjoyment . . . the enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
Here is the end of the Four Freedoms speech where Roosevelt expands on the four freedoms that he would like to see adopted around the world. We still need to make them apply here in the US.
What Americans want is simply what they talk about at the kitchen table at night: decent jobs so they can raise their families and pay their bills, the ability to see a doctor without going broke, education for their kids, and of course being treated as all others. Very simple folks. The Democratic Party is in line with this. The Republican Tea Party is in the opposite direction.