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Well, here comes the second long weekend of the summer. After all,
summer begins with a three-day weekend, a weekend in which we celebrate
Memorial Day. Memorial Day was the day we set aside to honor those that
gave their lives to defend freedom. Today’s generation enjoys the fruits
of their sacrifice by enjoying a three-day weekend.
The Fourth of July is one of those rare holidays that we still
celebrate on the original date of the event. We have not yet turned our
nation’s birthday, like the birthdays of our two greatest presidents,
into the Monday closest to the original dates. I am sure there will be
those that think the idea meritorious.
But in 1999, July Fourth falls on a Sunday thereby giving most
workers an extra day off on Monday, July 5 — thus creating the second
long weekend of summer. So hundreds of thousands of people will climb
into their automobiles, creep through endless traffic jams, have
picnics, barbecues, get sunburned, and then retrace the traffic jams
back to their homes.
Over the first few days of July millions will gather to watch the sky
overhead lit up by hundreds of thousands of pyrotechnics. The trademark
of the Fourth of July birthday party for America.
I am sure that this was not the legacy that Patrick Henry had in mind
when he uttered those famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
I certainly don’t think George Washington dreamt of such a legacy as he
watched his rag-tag army freeze in the cold and snow of Valley Forge.
You can be assured that Thomas Jefferson did not dream of fireworks as
he penned the immortal Declaration of Independence. Even Ben Franklin as
he cajoled the French into supporting the Continental Army could never
have envisioned what the Fourth of July has become.
All those great patriots who pledged their sacred honor, their
fortunes and their lives to create the greatest nation on earth were not
so full of hubris and self-conceit to worry about how future generations
would judge their deeds. They knew that their journey, although
necessary, was perilous and the outcome was never assured. In addition
there was never a huge outpouring of support from their fellow
colonists, as three out of every four colonists remained loyal to King
George V during the war.
But they saw their duty and they seized the day. And the same can be
said for those farmers who took their muskets and went to that bridge in
Concord. They knew that if the British seized the powder supplies, the
militia would be unable to fight against the British troops. Thus they
fired “the shot heard round the world” in order to save their “right to
keep and bear arms.”
The Revolutionary war was very personal to each and every soldier.
The Continental Army, which was made up of individual volunteers as well
as militia from the various states, fought to save their homes, their
land, and their families. And every one of them from Gen. Washington to
the lowly bugler boy was well aware that if they lost, the British would
seize their property and not only hang them for treason, but kill their
families as well. That war, unlike the vast majority of European Wars,
was not fought over treasure and bounty, it was fought because a
minority wanted self-determination, freedom.
How many of today’s Fourth of July celebrants would have joined with
those brave freedom fighters? Risking everything for the dream of
freedom. Would it still be only 25 percent, or would it be less? Now 223
years later very few Americans understand what those men fought and died
In the 20th century the only war that Americans experienced was “over
there.” America has not been scarred by war since our Civil War. Our
military have gone to Europe, Africa, the Pacific, Vietnam, and the
Middle East. Thus our civilians have no concept of the horrors of war.
In fact, most of our population under 40 has had no experience with any
facet of war. They were too young for Vietnam to even be a memory. While
to most Americans Operation Desert Storm was a news item that resembled
a shoot ’em up video game.
With the exception of Vietnam veterans most of the baby boomer
generation has no concept of war. Thus you see a president, who weaseled
his way out of service during the Vietnam War, decide to use American
pilots to lay waste to two countries: Yugoslavia and Kosovo. We first
watched Albanian Kosovars stream out of Kosovo, and now we watch Serbian
Kosovars leave as quickly as possible. The Albanian Kosovars are now
returning to a homeland devastated first by NATO bombs and then by
Serbian torches. And in revenge the Albanian Kosovars have pillaged and
burned Serbian Kosovar property. We are witnessing the last great
tragedy of the 20th century.
But no, President Clinton has declared victory. He even has the
chutzpah to christen his Kosovo policy, “the Clinton doctrine.” Well,
let’s add up the benefits of “the Clinton doctrine.” The United States
is now sending in the ground troops. (Or should we say “peacekeepers,”
not troops?) Peacekeepers or troops, they are still American service
men and women being sent into harm’s way to stop Albanian Kosovars from
killing Serb Kosovars and vice-versa — a task that may take years. In
addition Clinton has told the American people that the rebuilding of
Kosovo will cost American taxpayers billions.
Well, Bill Clinton is a far cry from our founding fathers. They
pledged their sacred honor, their fortunes and their lives to build a
nation. They weren’t thinking or worrying about their legacy or their
doctrine. Yet 223 years later we are still celebrating the birth of the
nation that is their legacy. Happy Birthday, U.S.A., and a heartfelt
thank-you to our founding fathers.