Hail land of the free and home of the feisty

"I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…"

-- John Adams

Ever prophetic, John Adams wrote those words to his wife about the Fourth of July shortly after he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Hopefully, Adams and the other founding fathers are watching us. Hopefully, they see things like the fireworks display in Falls City and Western Days in Monmouth-Independence and cannot help but smile.

They did their work well. Even they might be surprised their experiment in representative democracy has lasted 225 years. They must be so proud.

How can you not be proud of America?

For all its flaws, you have to love a country where people feel free to express their opinions on absolutely everything so loudly and passionately.

From serious issues like gun control and abortion to whether the young or old Elvis should appear on a postage stamp, Americans are never shy about expressing themselves.

Americans hold elections and opinion polls on everything. Even children vote on whether or not a cartoon rabbit should be permitted to eat a bowl of Trix cereal.

We just hope our fellow Americans don't ever take all this for granted. As they stand in line in the grocery store parking lot to get their sparklers and bottle rockets, are they really thinking about what it means to live in a country where they are free to think and to speak?

It is sobering to realize how rare that is in the course of human history.

A lot of patriotic addresses are delivered this time of year. Many of them turn their thoughts to the soldiers who risked (and often gave) their lives to keep America free.

Their heroism and sacrifices must be remembered and honored. Let's also take a moment to remember other Americans who gave their lives in defense of freedom.

Elijah Lovejoy comes to mind.

He was a Presbyterian minister and editor of a religious newspaper. After seeing slave Francis McIntosh burned at the stake, Lovejoy's attacks against slavery became even more passionate.

He was so hated by slave owners that he was forced to move from Missouri to Illinois in 1836. The move only bought him a few months.

Angry mobs in Illinois smashed his printing press. Trying to protect his new press, he was killed by another mob in 1837.

Another name we think of during Independence Day is Medgar Evers. The civil rights worker was murdered in Jackson, Miss., in 1963.

Then there is Joe Hill, a labor organizer who was (by most accounts) framed for murder by copper bosses in Utah. He was executed in 1915.

Of course, we can't forget Martin Luther King Jr.

As much as we honor the men and women whose faces are chisled into monuments and engraved in war memorials, we have a special place in our hearts for our rowdy countrymen who were the rebels and rabble rousers, apple cart upsetters and plain old nonconformists.

People like Thomas Paine, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Margaret Sanger, Clarence Darrow, Ida B. Wells, Lincoln Steffens, Abigail Scott Duniway, William O. Douglas, Rosa Parks, I.F. Stone and Tom McCall.

These are the kind of people who make the Constitution of the United States a living, breathing document.

Even we disagree with them.

Especially if we disagree with them. This is a great nation.


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