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Editorial - Independence Day

July 01, 1997

On Friday, July 4, The Herald-Mail will not publish a newspaper, so that our employees can enjoy the Independence Day holiday with their families. As our readers watch one of the many local fireworks displays or eat a hot dog fresh off the grill, we urge them to reflect on the deeper meaning of this holiday.

More than 200 years ago, a group of farmers, tradespeople and craftsmen decided that getting free of the laws, rules and the lack of political representation mandated by an imperial power was a cause worth fighting and dying for. It is tough enough for an established country to fight a war; America had to do it with none of the powers governments use to raise money and enforce discipline during wartime. Those who fought on the colonies' side not only faced death on the battlefield, but the possibility that if England won the war, they would be executed as traitors.

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When the patriots prevailed, their beloved leader resisted the suggestion that he become king of this new nation, and instead presided over a constitutional convention that wrote a document guaranteeing the freedoms that Americans now take for granted.

At every critical point in the nation's history, there have been people who came forward when they could have stayed comfortably in the background. That includes everyone from the citizens who volunteered for military service during all the nation's wars to people like Martin Luther King Jr., who risked everything to give everyone, no matter what their race, the freedoms the Constitution was supposed to guarantee.

Today it's doubtful that any American citizen will have to endure beatings or the hard spray of a fire hose for freedom's sake. Today's citizens have a job that is less dangerous, but no less important - to study the issues, provide input to elected officials and to vote.

That last duty is one that a lot of people have shirked in recent elections, with many saying it "doesn't matter" if they cast a ballot. A long time ago, it mattered that someone was willing to die for that right. The very least those who don't have to face anything as fearsome as a bullet can do is to exercise it.

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