Independence Day is one of the best American holidays, both for what we celebrate and how we celebrate it.
It's easy, however, to take liberty for granted, and to misconstrue just how difficult it was to gain our freedoms 239 years ago. The Revolutionary War was long and costly--arguably the second-longest conflict in American history. While the 50,000 or so casualties on the American side are roughly equal in number to the total dead and wounded in Afghanistan, this was at a time when there were fewer than three million people were living in the former British colonies.
So by all means, march in a parade, host a barbecue, have a few beers, head to the beach, light off some fireworks. My family and I will be right there with you. But take a minute or two to reflect on why we celebrate as well. Here are some of the best things ever said about freedom--some poignant, some rebellious, some even funny--to get you thinking.
1. "It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."
2. "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."
3. "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
4. "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
5. "If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."
6. "Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance."
7. "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
8. "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
9. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
10. "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
11. "[W]e look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world."
12. "Freedom lies in being bold."
13. "Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure."
--Stephen King (From "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption")
14. "Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life."
15. "Liberties aren't given, they are taken."
16. "The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty."
17. "I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be let alone!' There is all the difference."
18. "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide."
19. "A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself."
20. "I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery."
21. "If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary."
22. "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
--Martin Luther King Jr.
23. "I'd like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free."
24. "Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country."
--Marquis de Lafayette
25. "It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."
26. "We hold our heads high, despite the price we have paid, because freedom is priceless."
27. "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."
--General John Stark