Today, the United States of America turns 239 years old, and while every year we see and hear reminders to remember what the day means, most Americans remain woefully ignorant of the day’s true significance.  Today we celebrate Independence Day, not “The 4th of July.”  The 4th of July is a date, as is the 25th of December or the 1st of January.  Independence Day is for celebrating our brave founding fathers’ declaration of human freedom and our nation’s history.

The founding of the American republic, for all its nascent flaws and subsequent missteps, represents the greatest leap forward in human liberty and prosperity in more than five millennia of recorded history.  Americans took umbrage at the British Crown’s disregard of their liberties as Englishmen, and took the incredibly bold step of breaking away from the mother country and proclaiming the first truly free country on earth.  America was and is the first nation-state to be organized around a set of principles rather than the primitive motives of shared ethnicity and tribal affiliation.  That’s why American citizenship is possible for anyone; being American is as simple as being committed to the values of liberty, hard work, and personal responsibility.  The Marquis de Lafayette, one of many foreigners who fought under the banner of freedom, put it succinctly at the close of the Revolutionary War, “Humanity has won its battle; liberty has a country.”

Today, as a result of the freedom and ingenuity unleashed by the American Revolution, Americans and the peoples of the western world at large enjoy a level of prosperity, comfort, and safety undreamed of by even the kings and princes of the 18th century.  Yet Americans in general lack an appreciation for the Declaration of Independence and how it has led to the carefree, comfortable, and utterly oblivious lives they have the luxury to lead.  Fully 24 percent of our fellow citizens don’t know our country gained its independence from Great Britain; 44 percent cannot say what the Bill of Rights is; 64 percent can’t name the three branches of government, and 35 percent cannot name a single one; and 29 percent cannot even name the current vice president of the United States.

While our government works tirelessly to convince you that our freedom is threatened by primitive savages on the other side of the world, it is more important than ever to remember that the real threats to our freedom are here at home.  Our current federal government has long ago shed the chains of the constitution that protected us from tyranny and today recognizes no limitations whatsoever on its power.  We retain much of freedom, but all the mechanisms are in place to reduce us under complete despotism.  While terror attacks remain a very real threat, the collective Muslims of the world cannot threaten American liberty.  Abraham Lincoln’s observation of a century and a half ago still holds true today;

“All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

So today I urge all Americans to celebrate our shared commitment to human freedom and equality before the law; to celebrate our shared heritage and remember that we have a common interest in preserving liberty and will all share a common fate.  Tell your children about the great battle that was fought and won for human liberty on American soil, and how our example led the world to the heights of safety and prosperity, and remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  Jefferson knew that the greatest threats to freedom came from governments that slowly devoured their peoples’ liberty.  Remind yourself and your children that liberty is as fragile as it is precious; celebrate the day and our shared history, and remember that our freedom depends upon our vigilance and resistance to tyranny at home and not in ceaseless military adventures in search of monsters to destroy.