NEW YORK – This is a July 4 column that can’t wait a year.

It was inspired by some letters I received just after Independence Day 2001 in which the correspondents expressed regrets over selling fireworks to raise money for charitable causes.

Every year – at least in areas where selling fireworks is still legal – groups like churches, service clubs, schools, etc. raise money by selling fireworks to the public.

In 2001 for instance, fireworks sales totaled an estimated $650 million, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

So what’s wrong with selling fireworks? Am I worried about accidents?

Actually, no. In fact, while sales of fireworks are way up, fireworks-related injuries are way down – falling over 86 percent in the last 24 years.

No, while I enjoy the pyrotechnics of a good July 4 celebration as much as the next guy, my concern about all the fireworks sales in America is centered around where those pyrotechnic devices are manufactured – in China.

The question is, as one of my letter writers stated bluntly: How can this nation celebrate its independence every year by supporting the evil empire in Beijing?

That’s why I decided not to wait until next July 4 to raise this issue. It will be too late to do anything about it then. The sales will be over for another year. China will have raked in millions more in profits earned off the backs of slave laborers, political prisoners and badly exploited peasants.

How ironic. How sad. How tragic.

It’s true, though, that every single fireworks package I see – at least those available to ordinary consumers – is marked “made in China.” While there may be alternatives, I have never seen any.

So I want to set off some rhetorical fireworks here while we still have time to prepare for July 4, 2002. Let’s boycott Chinese fireworks. Let’s say no to distributing Chinese-made fireworks in the U.S. Let’s celebrate Independence Day by supporting independence and freedom throughout the world – including China.

While we’re at it, we ought to boycott Chinese-made goods in general. But that is getting more difficult all the time. It seems almost all the cheap goods being sold in retail outlets throughout the U.S. are made in China.

It reminds me of my own family’s July 4 celebration in 1997.

My wife, Elizabeth, and I had decided to take the children to see the Statue of Liberty. What better place to celebrate the founding of the greatest nation in the world? Perhaps Independence Hall in Philadelphia? Maybe, but we were in New York – and this would be an opportunity to teach our kids about the ideals of freedom upon which the American Dream was created.

The first surprise was how few people would be joining us for this 221th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The ferry ride over to Ellis Island and then Liberty Island was beautiful, the sun was shining and the breeze was blowing. But only a handful of Americans were making the trek with us. And many of those were foreigners, speaking other languages, but clearly in awe of the vision of Thomas Jefferson and the courage of the patriots who stood with him against tyranny, religious persecution, taxation without representation and colonialism.

On Ellis Island, we quickly found the wall commemorating the arrival of millions of immigrants who came to this country earlier this century and contributed so much to building the world’s most benevolent superpower. The names of my paternal grandmother, Alexandra Kurdock, and grandfather, Joseph Farah, were etched upon that wall. I reflected upon their own courage in making those long, lonely journeys from Middle Eastern countries in search of freedom and opportunity. I tried to give my four little California girls (we’ve had one more since then) a sense of what they must have endured to give them the comfortable life we all take for granted.

As a remembrance of this special day, we took the children to the island’s official gift shop, run by the U.S. Park Service. Inside we purchased several replicas of the statue and historical reference works on the mammoth task of building it and restoring it to its present glory. The kids were as excited as their parents about their new treasures, which would occupy a place of honor in our home.

But what a shock and disappointment for the parents when we examined the prizes more closely and found three incredible words stamped on the bottom: “Made in China.”

Yes, my friends, this was symbolism so tragic – so ironic – that it quickly brought us back to the reality of what we as a nation are facing today.

Think about it. At least 2,000 Chinese citizens gave their lives only a few short years ago in Tiananmen Square for the grave offense of erecting a papier-m?ch? replica of this symbol of liberty and individual rights. The Chinese government ruthlessly stormed the crowd of freedom-loving protesters and smashed that statue. Now, apparently, the U.S. Park Service has contracted with a Chinese company to make tiny replicas for tourists visiting the Statue of Liberty!

We thought long and hard about the poor Chinese workers – some perhaps in slave labor camps – toiling away their hours and days making little Statues of Liberty while they themselves would never have the chance to experience the promise it represents.

Contemporary China is the very antithesis of everything for which the Founding Fathers fought and died. Religious persecution worse than any they ever experienced or imagined 225 years ago is taking place today in this “enlightened” age in modern China. The slavery they wrestled with so long ago and we as a nation shed so much blood over and abolished more than 130 years ago still persists in China. Grotesque human rights abuses – including forced abortions and severe state-imposed limitations on childbirth – are a way of life in China. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are unheard of in today’s China.

Has America sold its very soul?

Maybe it’s not a big step – a dramatic step – but I think it’s time to start reclaiming our national soul. A good first step would be for charitable organizations across America to swear off the sales of Chinese-made fireworks next summer.

Are you with me?

Related offer:

“The China Threat,” Bill Gertz’s book about how People’s Republic targets America, is available in WorldNetDaily’s online store.

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