There’s nothing more American than a fun Fourth of July day. There are trips up north, cookouts with the family and spectacular fireworks. It’s a day to celebrate everything that makes the United States such a great place to live. We have so many freedoms and rights that so many people the world over want to come here. While the Fourth of July is a day to enjoy our nation’s accomplishments, it should also be a day when we reflect on how we got here, and what we should be doing to keep America on the right path.
Back in the 1700s, the Thirteen Colonies were another foothold of the vast British Empire, stretching across the world from Canada to Australia. We were a small part of the lands supporting the most formidable military and trade machine that had yet been seen. Though there were some institutions of local government, power ultimately rested in a king far beyond the sea in Britain, that many generations of colonists had never even seen themselves.
So what made us different than any of these other colonies? The colonists in America were pioneers. Many of them had left Britain and Europe to make a better life for themselves, away from the stifling authoritarian governments and poor conditions from which they fled. Others were religious refugees, trying to find a place where they could practice their beliefs unhindered by a state church enforced by decree.
These new Americans wanted a place where they could breathe free, and when that freedom was questioned, they fought to keep it. When the king tried to raise taxes on the colonists without their consent, they resisted in a number of creative ways, most notably with throwing a bunch of British tea into Boston Harbor. “No taxation without representation” became a rallying cry that eventually led to these determined patriots to take up arms to defend themselves against tyranny and oppression.
Their beliefs were manifested in the document of the Declaration of Independence, the anniversary of which we celebrate every July 4. The Declaration said that “all men are created equal” and that governments should derive their powers from the “consent of the governed” not from a birthright or crown. A new concept of a nation was born, one that was responsible to and served its citizens, rather than ruling mercilessly over them.
Taking these ideals as inspiration, the United States overcame many challenges: eradicating the scourge of slavery, establishing a strong and prosperous economy, and defeating tyranny in the world wars that would have brought the globe back into an age of dictators and darkness.
Our country hasn’t been perfect, and there have been episodes in our history that we need to learn from. But just because we have made mistakes shouldn’t be an excuse for critics to write this nation or our history off. Incredible sacrifices were made by many people throughout time that many of us couldn’t possibly fathom making now, and that wouldn’t have been made if they were only interested in their own self-benefit.
So this Fourth of July season, we should remember how we got here, but also where we want to go as a nation. We can always continue to work towards being good citizens and living up to the ideals that our country embodies. We should stay aware of what’s going on in our neighborhoods and country at large. We should be proud of being American, but also aware of how things can still be improved.
The price for the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy every day in the United States is being vigilant in protecting them. Its standing up for what’s right when you see or hear things that go against our beliefs of freedom and liberty. So remember while enjoying a beautiful Minnesota summer, our nation is strong and great only as long as we are willing to do our part to keep it that way.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics, and news, among other interests