On Independence Day, July 4th, we celebrate the declaration that justified the separation of 13 Colonies from England.
Atchison has a famous connection with Independence Day celebrations. In 1804 Lewis and Clark fired shots to celebrate the day at the mouth of what we call Independence Creek. It was only 28 years earlier that the group of men signed their lives away in Philadelphia.
What we celebrate is the birth of a new concept in how governments are created. The concept that people establish government, not God or gods, was unique. The actual declaration was a resolution by Richard Henry Lee on July 2nd. It stated, “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states....and that all political connection between them and The State of Great Britain is, and of right ought to be, totally dissolved.” The whole idea was generally considered absurd by most of the world at the time. No group of people had the right to dissolve any political connections.
In explaining to the World why the United States believed they had the right to dissolve the connection, Congress drafted what is known today as the Declaration of Independence. This document, along with the Constitution, set out new concepts. The idea that a government only exists by the consent of the governed was not previously recognized. The idea that if a group under a government no longer want to have the government they can overthrow that government.
That every person has certain rights just by being a person was unheard of. Congress went even further by listing specific individual rights. When looked at as a whole, the rights boil down to the freedom to make ones own choices. Every person can chose how he/she lives life. The founders also understood that with the freedom of choice came responsibility for the choices made.
Freedom of choosing ones life path does not mean freedom from the consequences of those choices. For good or ill each of us in this grand experiment must accept the results of our actions. This is great in theory but very difficult when the results for ill. When the playing field is equal, that is every person can make his/her choices, the bottom line is one has to accept it when things don't workout.
Over our history, people have made many hard choices. In the late 19th century large numbers of easterners immigrated to the great plains. This was a very dangerous journey with covered wagons. It would be naive to believe that all of them made it to homestead. With pride they set out knowing the danger they faced. They accepted the risk and lived with the consequences.
To preserve our freedom we must also accept that freedom does not included freedom from. Today we celebrate the freedom to make those choses and to be responsible for those choices.