Judith L. Pearson | At Their Own Peril
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04 Jul At Their Own Peril

Independence Day. It is my personal favorite of all holidays. There are no gifts, no elaborate feasts, no pressure to fulfill another person’s expectations. Rather it is the day, the ONLY day, that this great nation celebrates that we are, indeed, great.

Our geography is beyond compare, encompassing every climate, every vegetation, every topography. We are, and will forever be, a melting pot, whose citizens can trace their roots to every region of the planet. Languages, religions, races and beliefs, living side by side under a flag of tolerance, and governed by laws created by some of the most brilliant minds humankind has ever known.

But we don’t think often enough, if ever at all, who those minds belonged to. They were ordinary people who simply wanted to be treated fairly. They were living under the rule of a king who saw the opportunity for gain at the expense of others. Those men and women – yes, it has taken centuries to recognize the importance of women’s contributions to our nation’s founding – gave everything they had to create the United States of America.

But amid fireworks, parades and speeches, we forget what exactly it was that these people gave.

The men who fought the British army – then the most powerful military the world had ever seen – were farmers, blacksmiths, teachers, lawyers, and tradesmen. They wore their own clothing, carried their own weapons, and brought their own food. They were willing to give everything they had.

The women and children left behind made musket balls over their home hearths. They knitted socks and scarves and mittens, and were desperate to make sure their loved ones were supplied with basic needs. They were willing to give everything they had.

When the ammunition and clothing gave out, George Washington, the revolutionary army Commander in Chief, used his own money and that of his wife to help fulfill their needs. They were willing to give everything they had.

Other men spent months away from their wives and children in Philadelphia at the Continental Congress. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and others forged the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. These gave direction to the new nation and a purpose for the starvation, injuries and death occurring on the front lines. They were willing to give everything they had.

What we often fail to remember is that these men and women were considered traitors by Britain. A proclamation written on October 10, 1775, by King George III himself, made clear what fate awaited them: “Many of our subjects are being misled by a desperate conspiracy…. All our royal officers … are obliged to suppress such rebellion and bring the traitors to justice. For those who persist in their treason, the punishment shall be death by hanging.” Without fear, they persevered, willing to give everything they had.

So as we celebrate our Independence Day, we must remember those who made it possible, against all odds, at their own peril, willing to give everything they had.

Long live these United States.

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