Freedom is not just for the like-minded

Published 9:48 pm Friday, July 5, 2019


Contributing Columnist

One of the things most associated with Independence Day is the display of fireworks. I can remember as a child that I would always go down to the local store and purchase a handful of smoke bombs, snakes and sparklers. My stomach was filled with excitement as I set them off with great anticipation. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I was allowed to purchase the really cool ones that shot fire high into the trees. It was the one time of the year that I was allowed to play with fire and not get in trouble for it. As I became an adult, the allure of fireworks lost its sizzle. Fireworks now are a source of stress and aggravation for me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching the professionals set off fireworks that light up the night sky, and I reflect on the freedoms that have been earned by my ancestors and given to me. However, we cannot end the fireworks there. No, unfortunately there are tents set up in every spare section of every parking lot across the city.  Vendors peddling all sorts of exploding items and promising a bigger explosion than anyone else. This sets the stage for me to not enjoy a quiet and peaceful night from now until Christmas. People will continue to shoot off their excess supply of firecrackers months after July 4th has passed, and will create more pops and crackles that sound like gunfire than if I were walking in downtown Chicago. The peaceful night will sound like a war zone every evening for the next several months. Which of course, gives cause for every neighborhood dog to protest by barking without fail. I will eventually give up, go inside, and try to forget my aggravation by watching the new episode of Property Brothers, but who can focus with the continual pop, pop, pop, outside my window.

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In essence, Independence Day is reflective of a wonderful piece of history. I am not referring to the boring history that is taught in school, that is filled with endless dates for us to remember. I am talking about the history that tells about the trials and tribulations of people and what they endured to achieve success. Many people believe that July 4, 1776 is the date that America gained independence. Actually, that is the date when Congress merely voted for independence from Great Britain. That didn’t mean that America was free. We still had to win a war against the world’s strongest military. Saying we were free is one thing; achieving it is something different. I am amazed at the courage it took for the colonists to stand up against a stronger military to gain a life where you could make your own choices and live free. When I look at the generation today, I see young men with anti-American attitudes, with man buns that expect a hand out instead of working for what they want and believe in. It is times like these that I remind myself that freedom allows free speech, even if that speech is not what we ourselves may believe. Freedom wasn’t obtained so we could all agree and believe the same things; it was obtained so we could all believe what we choose to believe. That to me is what freedom is all about.

Jack Godbey is a resident of Danville and is a published author and historian.