Why the Fourth is sacred

(John Andrews in the Denver Post, July 3) The Independence Day barbecue at our house tomorrow will be a time of celebrating patriotic spirit and reliving family memories, some of them anyway. We do not plan to reenact the great fence-crashing incident of 1976. For our July 4 party in the bicentennial year, I organized a horse-and-rider race with the kids as jockeys guiding blindfolded grownups across the lawn. Tim, an ex-fullback, was paired with Jen, our little girl. Unable to hear her frantic warnings above the cheering, he charged headlong toward a stout (as we thought) picket fence.

On impact, thank goodness, the fence fell as flat as a balsa movie prop, they fell with it, and after a moment, as we all watched in disbelief, the shaken horse and rider struggled to their feet unharmed. Yes, I was in the doghouse with a relieved but exasperated Donna, and no, the family hasn’t let me forget that day.

Today I tell the story less as a parenting reminder (will dads never learn?) and more as a political parable. Independence Day should be not only an occasion for cookouts and fireworks, but also a day of gratitude for the blessings of liberty secured to us as Americans by the genius and heroism of our Founders. And here the Andrews fence fiasco makes a point.

Government holds awesome power in our lives, for good or for ill, like that galloping guy with my child hanging on. This blind power must be directed and checked, or someone is going to get hurt, as Jen and Tim almost did. The crowning date of the ages, in mankind’s long struggle to be the master of government, not its servant, is July 4, 1776. That’s why the Fourth should be sacred to us.

You won’t, unfortunately, sense a lot of sacredness as Monday unfolds. Indulgent relaxation, not solemn celebration, will generally be the order of the day. What celebrating there is will tend to be shallow and rote. About the only holy quality this “holiday” will have is what it’s given around your own family table. How much will that be?

I don’t mean to whinge. Such is life, after all. The more modern we think ourselves, the easier it is to imagine we’ve outgrown those hard realities that Kipling called “the gods of the copybook headings” – water will wet you, fire will burn, power corrupts, freedom’s not free. But understandable as it may be, such daydreaming endangers us. If we continue in it we’ll lose our country.

The Declaration of Independence, signed 229 years ago tomorrow, proclaims these fundamentals as “self-evident truths.” It attributes them to “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” Now you can’t even use those phrases in a university or high school without encountering intellectual sneers. Suggest they be studied in a grade-school and you may be censored by a secularist school board (California) or blocked by race-baiting politicians (New Jersey).

We need to fight back, and July 4 is a good day to start, against these deconstructionists who seek to define Washington’s and Jefferson’s America out of existence. (Of which, ironically, they would be the first victims; dissent is banned in Beijing or Teheran, risky even in today’s Muslim-appeasing Europe.) The right and the center must remind and remind and remind the left that this is the way it is:

(1) Truth and Nature and God are undeniably real, deny them as we may. (2) The Declaration is absolutely correct in stating that all human beings are created equal and endowed by their Creator (not government) with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (3) To secure these rights (not invent new ones) governments are instituted, owning no just powers but those that we the people, the governed, consent to.

This is the good stuff, always will be, regardless how it’s counterfeited by the utopians or devalued by the materialists. Its wisdom is older than the Liberty Bell yet newer than the headlines. It’s all the catechism we need for the renewal of a free society. Tomorrow, the Sacred Fourth, I’ll hope you will think on it with me. And you dads, better clear those yard games with mom.