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Treasured Freedoms Are Not Shared By All
July 4 is one of those dates that is freighted with memories that are imprinted on my internal being. Last night we watched the TV coverage of the festivities that took place on the enormous Mall. Two years ago we watched from the steps of the U.S. Capitol with grandsons Tony and Chris.
That morning we had joined the throng outside the National Archives where enactors portrayed parsonages such as Ben Franklin and read the Declaration of Independence. Then we waited for over an hour to view the Declaration and the Constitution. I suppose I’m growing sentimental, but there’s something about the Declaration, the Constitution and the Gettysburg address that brings tears to my eyes. They were the result of a new way of thinking, and, to me, they sum up America.
This year’s headliner was the incomparable Little Richard who pounded away at the piano, rolled his eyes and gave his signature, falsetto "w-o-o-o-h". A Broadway star sang "All That Jazz" and "Cabaret" Little Richard had the crowd on their feet, dancing, clapping, singing. He invited them to join him on the stage. There was a mixture of young and old and various nationalities All over the Mall, Mothers jiggled little babies; Dads jitterbugged with daughters; couples swayed back and forth together; teenagers hopped and pranced. . Most of the people wore shorts; some were barefoot. One man who was wearing a suit was on his feet with the rest of them, dancing. Then came the fireworks, and I could imagine the children exclaiming, "Ooh . . . ahh!"
For one evening, regardless of their political, social and ethnic differences, people came together at events all over the country to celebrate America. They were the living embodiment of Jefferson’s revolutionary ideal of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Those concepts still do not exist in much of the world. In Venezuela, the President recently shut down a popular TV company. Our friend, Vadel, was imprisoned and tortured in Mauritania. They threatened to jail an Iranian acquaintance and his wife because she was caught on the street, wearing makeup. A Congolese e-mail correspondent begged me to adopt one of her daughters so that she would have a chance at a decent life.
As I watched the celebration, I thought about what this country would become if extremists prevailed: The publishers of this newspaper wouldn’t be permitted to criticize officials. Women would be in shrouds rather than shorts and would have few rights. Men would have to wear beards. There would be no jazz, rock and roll or Broadway. The voices of people like Little Richard would be silenced. Simple and harmless pleasures that we take for granted would be forbidden.
On July 7 we attended the funeral of Bill’s brother. At the beginning of the service a small group of veterans performed a military ceremony. Afterwards I was touched by the playing of taps and the ceremonial folding and presentation of the flag to Bill’s sister-in-law.
Rick Clarke, his brothers and my family’s brothers-in-law all served in World War II. One wonders what the world might be like today if they and all the others like them had not prevailed, and Hitler had his Thousand Year Reich.
Our eldest grandson, Bill, couldn’t go to Washington with us because he was spending the summer in National Guard training. He said that he was joining because he wanted to serve his country. He’s going to be sent to Baghdad in a few months; and, no, Grandma is not happy about his going off to what she has considered from the beginning to be a premature and inadequately prepared undertaking, no matter how noble the hope of bringing liberty to an oppressed people.
Our news is full of silly trivia about the likes of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears. We seem as foolish as the Romans. One can only hope that one day "Taps: will not sound for America..
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