The 4th of July simultaneously inspires and depresses me. This day reminds me of the great principles of liberty that were held by the Founding Fathers; principles for which they were willing to give their lives. It reminds me of the freedoms that we benefit from and that so many others will never have. On this day we celebrate a remarkable moment in history that forever changed the world.
However, the 4th of July also reminds me that American patriotism is despised by many who call themselves (albeit reluctantly) Americans. There are a surprising number of Americans that believe that there is nothing particularly special about this country and even that it's the source of much of the world's misery. That the American ideal of liberty inspired millions and eventually resulted in the spread of democracy throughout the world seems lost on them. The fact that this country helps feed other nations, fights for other nations' freedom, and provides much of the world's medicines and technologies are ignored by them. I'm not saying that the United States is perfect; no nation composed of anything but saints could ever be perfect. However, the effect of the United States on the world has been overwhelmingly positive.
Even more discouraging than those Americans who actually despise their native country is the even greater number of Americans whose patriotism is shallow. How many of us think of Independence Day as a day simply for barbecues, fireworks, and good deals at the local furniture store? Do we make an effort to learn about the history of the American founding or the principles that drove the Founders? Do we appreciate the Founders' sacrifices or the fact that they were concerned not only about their own generation but about future generations as well? Are we passing on the ideals of freedom to the rising generation? Or are we tempted to take our liberties for granted, thus putting ourselves at risk of losing them? President Ronald Reagan said it best:
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.