Sunday, July 01, 2007

Independence Day - No, Not the Movie

Johannes Phend, his wife Susanna, and their 3 year old son Jacob were the 2nd to the last of my ancestors to come to the United States, arriving in 1832. Charles Wiseman, the last to arrive in this country came a year later. Both families came from the Canton of Berne, Switzerland though it is not likely that they knew each other. Did they ever hear from their family back in Switzerland? What was the journey like for them? Did they come with friends? Why did they come here? These questions, and others, will go unanswered. However, these people were here to stay. Once they had started the journey, there really was no turning back. They committed themselves to the journey and to their new life. And once they arrived in their chosen country, they purchased land, they became productive farmers, and they became citizens as soon as possible. I have a feeling that many of the immigrants coming into this country today haven't made that full committment yet. Of the thousands of immigrants coming to our country today, how many become citizens? Our nation was built by immigrants. Hopefully, our nation will continue to prosper and grow, in part because of the immigrants and the influx of new ideas and talents that come with them.

I don't necessarily agree with many of the policies of our current administration. I've disagreed with the policies of past leaders as well. But because of the founding fathers, I have the right to disagree and to speak out if I so choose. I have the right to choose my religion, to decide what church, if any, to go to. I have the right to vote for my leaders. I (we) have these rights, and others, because 231 years ago men and women stood up to the injustices they saw. They spoke out. They gave their livelihoods and in some cases, their lives for the cause. Other wars have been fought, more lives have been lost so that we can retain these rights and our freedom. We are in the midst of battle today. I've never been convinced that we should have gone into Afghanistan and Iraq, but we are there and we need to support the men and women who are serving, as well as support the families they have left behind. We need to support the wounded men and women who return from those battlefields, to give them the care and treatment they deserve. Regardless of your feelings for the war itself, those who are serving in our armed forces deserve our support and respect. It's the least we can do, we owe them for putting their lives on the line. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.

As for me this Fourth of July will be spent with family. We'll enjoy our cookout and watch the fireworks. Mom and I will watch the PBS special they always have celebrating Independence Day. I'll get goose bumps when they play "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "America the Beautiful" and the "National Anthem" and tears will come to my eyes during the finale when they salute each branch of the Armed Forces. And I'll stand proudly when "Anchors Aweigh" is played and think of those in my family that served before me. And remember the real meaning of Independence Day:
"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."

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