It has been 240 years since the Declaration of Independence was signed. Today, of course, we celebrate that Independence.
It is a precious thing, Independence. Sovereignty. Identity. The people of the United Kingdom just voted for theirs. Here at home we risk ours in a consequential Presidential election between two amazingly unpopular candidates. Yes, I said risk. Every time, to varying extents.
That’s what we do, here. We risk. It may be a reasonable or small risk sometimes, but we take it. And it isn’t always small. We risk our future on elections. It should not be that it all hangs on one branch of government such as the executive; and indeed, though it seems that way sometimes, it really doesn’t. But they do matter.
Risk is part of freedom. That’s the trade. You risk a car accident for the reward of free movement. You risk your savings for the reward of interest. Your career for a new opportunity. Your comfort for excitement.
We risk our lives as policemen or firemen or soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines. We risk crime by allowing a free population with many liberties. We risk cheaters by allowing free trade. We risk injury by owning or doing dangerous things.
We risk revolution.
On July 4, 1776, fifty-six men risked their Lives, their Fortunes and their sacred Honor so we could take our risks today. And a people revolted. What Calvin Coolidge called “a great mass of independent, liberty loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.” Dared.
It is not shameful that our democratic republic has been at risk or in danger from time to time. That is its nature, it is our nature. America is dangerous. Americans are dangerous. There have been many who learned that over the last 240 years, and the first was King George.
There are many things to remember, to honor, and to celebrate on the Fourth of July. We are patriots and we celebrate our freedom and liberty. We celebrate the founders and the great documents, honor family and heroes and the wars and the peace. But today, perhaps to the flashing light and loud booms of fireworks, try to remember risk and danger, too. The daring. All the better to appreciate the reward.
We are Americans. Cowboys. Conquerors of the moon. Explorers and settlers. Warriors. We are risk-takers. And by God, we are dangerous.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Happy Fourth of July, America. Be safe. But not too damn safe. I dare you.