And celebrate we all did: parades, ballgames, family reunions, cookouts, swimming, concerts, etc… All day Friday and again all day Saturday, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. For many, this went on well after dark, as we saw the rocket’s red glare and heard the bombs bursting in the air.
Of course, the latter is a reference to the exploding of huge volumes of fireworks, which is the one annual ritual most often associated with the celebration of Independence Day. In Knoxville, we have day-long “Boomsday” and “Rockin’ the Docks” events, each of which culminates in huge fireworks displays.
Seemingly just as large, though far less well known, is the annual fireworks celebration that takes place up and down the street where my wife and I live. Starting at dark, it does not usually wind down until around midnight. The two of us enjoy the experience together.
I do have to admit that I am a bit too cheap to buy fireworks myself. But I do get to enjoy the view as my neighbors light everything from Sparklers to Roman Candles. And when I get tired, I simply go inside. It is the best of both worlds.
When the sun comes up on the morning after fireworks, however, I have observed that one thing generally holds true: it does not really matter where fireworks were set off, they tend to come down everywhere. My yard, my neighbors’ yards, the roofs of our homes, the woods, the street – you name it, wherever we look, there are the remains of fireworks.
And even though my wife and I did not technically set them off, we gladly accept the responsibility for helping to pick up their remains. After all, we did enjoy the view while they were going off. We did get a free ticket to the show.
I share this with you because, for me, it illustrates a great truth about our freedom. We treasure freedom; as well we should. We dutifully recognize it each and every year on Independence Day. We celebrate it and have a wonderful time together.
But in truth, freedom requires much more than mere celebration. It requires responsibility. The festivities of July 4th must inevitably give way to the duties of July 5th. We must accept and assume responsibility for our actions if we are to be truly free.
Our forebears learned this. Declaring independence from Great Britain was one thing. Fighting to secure that freedom was quite another. And yet, this they were willing to do.
But even then, there is more. Becoming free then begs the issue of remaining free. And that necessitates rolling up one’s sleeves and going to work. For my neighbors and me, that means picking up burned out cardboard tubes and brightly colored wooden stems. If we do not do this for ourselves, no one else will.
For our founding fathers, this meant accepting the responsibility of governing themselves. It meant drawing up laws and setting up a nation - which may sound simple until you stop and consider just what all that really involves!
When an eaglet finally leaves the nest, it is free. It can fly anywhere it wants. It can come and go as it pleases. It gets to make its own decisions. But that always comes with a cost. For now, there are no parents to feed it. There is no parents’ nest in which to live.
No, the price of freedom is responsibility. Accordingly, the new adult eagle must now learn to provide for itself. It must hunt on its own. It must build its own nest. It must find its own mate. It must raise its own brood. That is the way of things in the natural world.
And the same is true for people and also for nations. The responsibilities of July 5th always follow the festivities of July 4th. The sun comes up; we get up; and then we start to pick up. And that is how it should be. For unless we are willing to be a responsible people, we can never truly expect to be a free people!