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July 4, 2007

The Fourth of July has always gotten my patriotic juices flowing. It is in no small part due to the fact that I am descended from a hero of the Revolutionary War. Much to the chagrin and occasional embarrassment of my family, I have been known to launch into a discourse on the life and times of General Edward Lacey, the most recent being with an English Civil War re-enactor at Berkeley Castle near Gloucester, England. I don’t think he was much taken with this upstart from the colonies going on about how his great grandfather times four helped lick the British.

Of the general’s many exploits (there is a good summary at http://home.hiwaay.net/~Livingston_Bios_2.html) my favorite involves the Declaration of Independence. When it arrived at the camp of the South Carolina militia under then Captain Lacey’s command, it is recorded that he stood atop the backs of two horses drawn side by side and read it to his men. When finished he said, “Thank God. Now we can go on the offensive instead of always being on the defensive.” That would make great theater in any age.

As I have read the newspapers and listened to the news shows the past couple of days I could not help but wonder what my ancestor would think about the country to which he helped bring liberty. I doubt if he would be all that surprised at the terrorism we face. After all, it was terrorist tactics that brought the Revolutionary War to a head in the South. He witnessed the killing of innocent civilians and knew the horrors of war. The growth and prosperity of the USA would surely please him as all of our country’s founders had that vision and indeed made it possible through the establishment of a democratic government. He might find our understanding of liberty and definitions of freedom to be somewhat puzzling as we have interpreted and re-interpreted the Constitution over time, often complicating it beyond what any of our forefathers conceived. I also wonder what he would think of our values and the prevalence of our materialistic mindset. I know that he would be disappointed in our knowledge of history and the lack of understanding of where we came from and the sacrifices that have been made by our forefathers and foremothers to get us where we are today. Overall though I think he would be amazed at the nation he helped to create.

July 4 is a time to honor our country. It is appropriate that patriotism holds a special place in the American experience. Despite our difficulties, and there are many, we hold an unshakeable faith in the resilience of the American people, a faith that was demonstrated by those who came before.

On this day I plan to watch a parade, listen to a patriotic concert, and maybe catch some fireworks. At least for this day, I will swell at pride at being an American.