Independence, Freedom, and Choices

This is the day when we break out the red, white, and blue décor and display our pride in being Americans with the rest of our community, same as we do every year at this time. Across the Brazos Valley some of our neighborhoods are staging their own parades and parents have helped their children decorate their bike handles with streamers. Sound systems are playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” as a parade route forms. Pedal cars are moving into position behind the four- and five-year-old drivers maneuvering into position. Electric cars driven by Batman or John Deere III slide into view.

From the days when the late Hon. W. T. “Tom” McDonald, Jr. founded the parade at Heritage Park for the 4th of July to cross town at Copperfield and over to College Station – patriotism is on full review today as it is every year at this time. Somehow it seems more poignant this year, maybe because Chelsea and I are talking about “God bless America” and “We are proud to be Americans” but how does he know that it is not in the same intonation as we declare allegiance and loyalty to our beloved Aggies as we sing “We are the Aggies, the Aggies are we, we’re from Texas AMC”?

One claim is a birthright versus a conscious choice to stand up for and stand behind the principles upon which loyalty is shown to both institutions of government and college rivalry. Another difference is that there is typically only pride at stake when university rivalries are tested each week on a field of contention, whether turf, gravel, or aggregate rubber. To be sure, today Americans almost take it for granted that if our team loses, either the next year will bring about satisfaction or correction of an aggrieved error. You mope for a day or two, but you plan to rebuild for the next time you face off with “the enemy.”

In a company where assets can be built or lost, still there is no level of “life or death” at stake. You win profits, you lose assets. You always have a second chance to redo, rebuild, grow again. And yet, when it comes to America…things are quite different.

Today more than ever, decisions that are made on behalf of American citizens live on beyond a single law, rule, or vote, whether these guidelines and rules were put into place two years ago or over 200 years ago and have survived to those in power today. And yet, we think back to the days when loyalty was a life and death choice to make. In those cases, decisions were made within a few seconds whether you were to declare yourself loyal to the Monarch of England of whether you wanted to declare yourself “free.”

What is freedom? What does it mean to have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and what is specifically guaranteed to us by the 14th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution? Due process of law, equal protection under the law, right to citizenship, and that NO ONE can take away our life, liberty, and that rarely thought about “pursuit of happiness.” We just take it for granted that it is something we are “due,” the pursuit of happiness. What no one stops to think about is if/when we ever consider not being able to pursue happiness. We have never awakened in the morning not free to go about our day as we wish. No one has dictated to us before, certainly not a king, not a person, or a soldier, or a self-appointed ruler. Americans gave their lives long ago for our freedom today.

Sometimes the only way you can explain freedom, especially as we do to children when we teach them about life, is to explain what it means to “NOT” have freedom. The absence of something we have, whether we realize it, is punishment. However, we take so many things for granted in life, we rarely have time or opportunity to consider what our life would be without them.

Freedom is not political. Freedom is a birthright of being an American. Just two weeks ago in the Brazos Valley we had new naturalized citizens take the oath of allegiance at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, truly a momentous occasion at an iconic location. Today’s news sources note that 11,000 people will celebrate the 4th of July this year by doing the same thing—taking the oath of allegiance—between June 28 – June 5.

As one part of the test, U.S. citizens take a test to express their knowledge of English, and then there’s an oral exam of 10 civics questions. Six of 10 questions must be answered correctly to pass. Do you know who wrote the Declaration of Independence? How many stripes were on the first U.S. flag? What did they represent? Who was Susan B. Anthony?

People continue to seek citizenship in America as we continue to be known as “land of the free, home of the brave.” May we continue to teach our young people today how important it is to remain free, to continue to be brave in the face of dangerous challenges to our freedom, and to be willing to defend our country against enemies, seen and unseen. May God continue to bless America today as every day and long may our flag fly high as a sign that our country remains free.

Cody D. Jones ‘02

Owner & Community Member

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