July 4 marks the 237th birthday of our great nation. On Independence Day we celebrate the foundation of what we cherish the most: freedom. We have the freedom to congregate, to travel, to worship, to speak and, yes, the freedom to petition or criticize the government we elect.
Our ancestors risked a great deal to put us on the path to where we are today. We enjoy those freedoms because of the vision, determination and sacrifice of those who came before us. This year, Independence Day is just 38 days after Memorial Day, when we choose to honor the ultimate sacrifices made by those who fought for our freedoms for more than two centuries.
On July 4, 1776 a commitment to freedom was immortalized in a document called the Declaration of Independence. We should not forget that it was just that: a declaration. It is safe to say that the King and those governing the colonies on behalf of the Crown did not co-sign that document authored by those 56 delegates in Philadelphia that summer.
Instead, those gathered to craft the 1,337-word document were deemed guilty of treason and all of our original patriots potentially faced a date with the hangman. Stop and think about that for a moment. This was a supreme act of conviction bolstered by uncommon courage. How would CNN, MSNBC or Fox News have reported this event?
As an elected State Representative, I sometimes hear a public servant praised for taking what is called a "courageous vote." This usually means voting one's conscience instead of what might be expected of them by their party or party caucus. In other words, risking the political wrath of party leaders or colleagues from within one's own party.
But there is no comparison to the actual wrath these men risked 237 years ago. They memorialized their own "treachery" by affixing their names to a document that basically said they no longer answered to the Crown. They placed bull's-eyes on their own backs.
They risked all that they had: their fortunes, their properties, their possessions and even their own lives and those of their families. They understood those risks and many paid the price by seeing their homes plundered, their property taken or never seeing their family again. A few died as broken men.
The actions of 56 heroes taken in July of 1776 are the embodiment of the term "courage of one's convictions." Today, we are witness to that same courage in the men and women who risk making the supreme sacrifice in defense of all that our Founding Fathers held dear. As well, let us not forget law enforcement, who daily put their lives on the line by protecting the liberties of the law-abiding from those who would take those liberties away through criminal acts.
Together, let us celebrate our Independence Day with family and friends. As we enjoy our cookouts and sanctioned fireworks displays, we should reflect on just how we came to mark this great tradition. It should make us even prouder to be Americans.
Happy Independence Day and God bless America!
Dane Eagle is the state representative for District 77, which includes Cape Coral