By Joe Rector

July 4th is one of only a few days that has become a national holiday. We Americans know how to celebrate it with style. We spend bundles on explosives that fizz or whir or boom for a few minutes, and all we’re left with are aching ears, smoke-filled eyes, and empty pockets. Still, we think we know a good time when we see it.

At the same time, folks across the country take the opportunity to share the day with friends and families. Some neighborhoods even come together to share food and fellowship and then top the day off with those fireworks displays. Nothing is better to eat than hamburgers, hotdogs, and potato salad, all washed down with a variety of beverages, both sugary and alcoholic. It’s a glorious summer day of celebration.

The fact is that Independence Day is something much more than Boom’s Day. This is the one day when each of us should think about what freedom means to the life, breath, and survival of our country.

I’ve heard about as much as I can stomach about the Constitution and Bill of Rights from folks whose main agenda is winning an election or taking over power in our government. The Constitution is like the bible; both are subject to personal interpretation, and every person can read into them what he or she thinks will provide an edge. Neither the right nor the left has all the answers. I’m pretty sure that none of us knows all that the founding fathers had in mind as they cobbled together the Constitution. So, let’s put a stop to those who declare that only they have the right answers.

If we are to be a nation that declares it offers freedom, then it’s time make it available to all Americans. That means that we have to accept as fellow citizens the Hispanics who have deep roots in the country. It means that we have to include citizens who have different beliefs in religion. It means that folks have the same rights to the good things of this nation, even if their lifestyles don’t jive with ours.

Something else we must remember is that one person’s rights end where another’s begins. No, you do NOT have the right to do whatever you want because your actions might offend or encroach upon the lives of others. Living in the U.S. is a privilege; I suppose it’s like winning the lottery. We citizens of this country are caretakers of it; we are charged with the solemn duty to make it better than we found it. That means making the country a place that does offer the last best hope for mankind. Of course, in achieving that lofty goal, it follows that individuals from other countries will want to make their ways to America so that they, too, can share in the bounty.

We can have differences of opinions. That’s one of the most wonderful things that goes with the U.S. I can spout my beliefs and you can do likewise. However, at some point, it is incumbent upon us, and especially  on the elected officials whom we send to Washington, D.C., to stop the debate, roll up sleeves, and find common ground. Stalemates like we’ve seen the past few years have done nothing to make this country greater; to the contrary, they’ve led to divisiveness and hurt feelings and polarized sides. I contend that what’s been going on recently is the antithesis of what our founding fathers had in mind.

So, enjoy July 4th. Eat, drink, fellowship, and bathe in the gifts that the country bestows upon us. At the same time, remember that this country deserves our best acts to keep it the shining beacon to the rest of the world. We all might bow our heads and ask for just a bit of guidance on how to do that before the holiday is over.