Author: Alvira, Marco

Steaks, Happiness, and Liberty

I’m fixing on going out to our local butcher shop and buying enough meat to feed about two pounds to the person. It will be marinated for two days and then barbequed to a perfect medium-rare. There’ll be about a pound of homemade potato salad and coleslaw per plate. All that gets washed down with vast quantities of pop and copious amounts of home brew. All this is consumed while sitting under the shade of the large tree in my backyard. Yup, that’s how I plan on spending the Fourth of July…safe from crowds and drunk drivers. Don’t get me wrong. Independence Day means one heck of a lot more to me than a mid-summer excuse for a massive food fest (though I don’t ever need much of an excuse to do that).

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Declaration of Independence

Every day, I count myself blessed to live in a country with almost infinite freedom --for better or worse— and limitless opportunity for those willing to work. Every nation has their cultural and historical skeletons in the closet. Our nation is so young that our skeletons are still laying about the living room floor. That, however, is part of the beauty of our nation—it’s willingness to take its problems head on. Slavery, the great wedge in American society in the early 19th Century, was eradicated and paid for in blood. The lingering effects of slavery, racism, have been rooted out on an institutional level nowadays as America moves inexorably toward a colorblind future.

I am fortunate to have a perspective of America uncommon to most. Being my mother’s son, my roots are traced to the Mayflower and pass through Bunker Hill and Gettysburg along the way. A deep abiding love for my country is entwined in the fabric of my upbringing. With family traditions so deeply entrenched in our national heritage and history, it might become easy to develop a fossilized view of our nation—one encrusted in platitudes and jingoism. Warding off nationalistic calcification are other lessons in other American values: respect for the property, rights and feelings of others; compassion for the helpless and the underdog; and the belief that Americans should always fall on the side of justice in any conflict and debate.

My father, with his sister and mother, immigrated to California from Puerto Rico when he was a teenager. They left their island in a time of great poverty. My family is an object lesson in determination and hard work. Back in the early sixties, I recall my dad (a master mechanic and journeyman machinist) sometimes commenting about bias on the job based upon his olive complexion and accent, but his faith in the American values of freedom and equality were unshakeable. When I was about sixteen, he saw me reading the Communist Manifesto. I was curious. The next day, on my small bedroom desk, I discovered he had left a book: You Can Trust a Communist—To Be a Communist, by the John Birch Society. Looking back, it’s somewhat laughable now—even a little embarrassing—but he was man for whom excuse making was not acceptable. He understood the problems faced by our nation, but for him, other systems were not an option.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”
Declaration of Independence

That clause turned the world upside down and inside out. It contradicted every monarch and despot’s claim to power and authority from that time forward to the present. It is the benchmark by which governments are measured worldwide today. They are words that entrenched political interests would do well to heed, for there is a clause directly afterwards that describes the dire consequences of governments unresponsive to the citizens. That people are “born free”, as Rousseau stated, and that all governments exist to safeguard their liberty is the single greatest determining factor in the American psyche and character. This spirited sense of individualism was cemented by a history of emigration to a frontier where Americans experienced great liberty and establish new lives.

I often wonder if I would have had the courage to stand up for liberty like our ancestors at Lexington and Concord. I have to ponder about the state of our nation had it been left in the hands of guys like me who choose to celebrate Independence Day alone in the comfort of their backyard by the deck of the swimming pool.

Have a great Independence Day, folks. Be safe in your holiday journeys.

Posted:  7/3/2011

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