Young Glory

The following editorial appears today in the [Raleigh, N.C.] News & Observer.

Ours is not such an old country, really. Think Greece and Egypt and Spain and England. Consider all those magnificent monuments and pyramids dating back in the thousands of years. Read the translations of all those ancient tomes, and consider the etchings on temple walls.

Nonetheless, we’ll take America, as wet behind the ears as it may be. And if you’re interested in giving the kids a little history lesson at today’s family picnic, you might note that the U.S. of A. is really a little older than a lot of people think. It was on July 2, 1776 that the Second Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence, and at the time, some who were there thought that might be the biggest date in American history. But then the group adopted a formal explanation of its action, called the Declaration of Independence.

And yes, that was on July 4, 1776, some 236 years ago today.

Everybody forgot about July 2. OK, maybe not forgot, but it sort of fluttered back in terms of importance.

The courage it took for those congressional delegates of long ago to declare their country’s independence from His Majesty George III really can’t be fully comprehended. In so declaring, they put their lives in danger. When Patrick Henry talked of liberty or death, he wasn’t just letting his oratorical furies have full rein. He was pretty much being realistic.

We have learned since, and even today as our troops are coming home from Afghanistan and remain in other places of hazardous duty far from home, that death is sometimes a price for maintaining that liberty declared long ago. Our brave men and women have paid that price in World Wars, in Vietnam, in Korea, in theaters of war protecting our own interest or those of freedom all over the world. If you have in your picnic crowd today anyone in uniform, recognize them and celebrate them.

But what a marvelous and profound freedom it is. When we’re standing today, just before noon or so, and bowing our heads in prayer in advance, perhaps of a family feast in Grandpa’s yard or at some riverside or maybe just at home, many of us will uphold a tradition by singing “God Bless America.” If you’ll look at the veterans in your crowd, you will notice that they don’t miss the words, and they don’t hold down the volume. They served to protect those blessings.

In Washington, there will be fireworks, the literal kind, and for a day at least, some bipartisan celebrating. Anyone who doubts the strength of this democracy should have had that doubt eradicated by the volatile, sometimes outrageous disputes during the administration of President Obama. Despite having some harsh confrontations, one after the other, in these last three-plus years, the country stands strong, and come November, the people will have yet another chance to remind the partisans who’s in charge here.

And so, we charge on, dressing the youngsters today in the red, white and blue, giving them little flags to wave, teaching them “God Bless America” and those other grand old hymns of freedom.

Or should that be grand young hymns? Because we’re so youthful and all.

Still, for a whippersnapper of a country, we’re doing pretty well.