This month we celebrate freedom. We enjoy it with picnics and fireworks and outings, but these celebrations will have no meaning if we do not consider that the gift of freedom has throughout our nation’s history, been purchased with the blood of men and women, and with the wound to the souls of many a parent who live with the loss of their child long after their soldier stopped breathing on some muddy or sun-parched battlefield. Even today as we play the ballgames, fish the ponds, roast the hot dogs, or set off the explosions of color into the night sky, someone is dying, and some family will get the word that their child will not be coming home.
That is why we must know why we fight, why our boys and girls are sent, and why they die. The cause must be real and the objective clear and true. No young American must die for political maneuvers or to help the economy. It must be for freedom. Yet freedom dearly bought is always to be treasured and pursued over a false peace where no one is free. Living in fear must be held at bay by the burning fires of right living and right choosing. We must never prostitute our women or barter our men to escape conflict, and, in avoiding conflict, live with the impending knock on the door of our fragile dwelling places by those who would demand a higher and higher payment for ransom. The greedy landlords of this world will never have “enough” and simply go away. It is fool-hardy for us to think they ever would. There are fates worse than death, and there must always be virtues and freedoms worth fighting for.
So, we have paid this ultimate sacrifice through our history to eradicate injustice, to defend the powerless, to eliminate ruthless dictators, and to establish a spiritual and physical place where children can be taught and nurtured in those virtues that endure, while their parents go about the daily task of justice, mercy, industry, and self-discipline for the cause of right and freedom for all.
We must today love and encourage and forgive each other as we play and sing and feast. We must celebrate something true, not just celebrate. And that true thing—our freedom to think, work, worship, and speak—will always be dear, because freedom is not and never has been free. Like the turning of a house into a home, the hollowing out of a country is a daily and active process that grows more precious with every virtue won and every inclination to evil and selfishness defeated.
The nicks in the furniture, the dents in the siding, the cracks in the sidewalk, the trees that have grown to shelter and cool are all testimonies to the process that makes a home—or a country—a thing of beauty and value.