“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
— Ben Franklin
Since Alexandria celebrates its own birthday along with the nation’s this Saturday, the 4th of July here can be quieter, a time for simpler family pursuits including the picnic or backyard or, in some cases, balcony barbecue. Neighborhoods such as Rosemont have their own get togethers and many hardy souls brave the Metro crowds to head into the Mall or find their favorite spot along the George Washington Parkway to watch the fireworks.
For some this holiday was marred by the week’s rain, wind and floods which resulted in long power outages, downed trees, destroyed cars and basements, as well as sewer contamination. A few may have lost their homes permanently. Neither the total cost nor all the causes have been determined at this point but city and state officials have promised they will get help and answers.
Despite the week’s trauma, however, most of us were able to enjoy the 4th in some measure and perhaps reflect on what it means.
In that sometimes silly, often clever and occasionally pointed musical “1776,” both the risks and cost of freedom are discussed as representatives of the 13 original colonies debate whether they will indeed officially demand their freedom from England, despite the fact that George Washington and his Continental Army have already been fighting for it for over a year.
There are those in that Congress who feel securing their own safety, their families and their property are the highest goals while others feel just as strongly that nothing can really be accomplished without freedom. The price for many of those delegates was very high but they did not hesitate to pay it and to persuade others that while freedom’s cost is high, the risk is worth it.
Those original delegates in Philadelphia were in many ways people like us. Some were men of vast wealth and property, others were doctors or lawyers or teachers, one was a cobbler. But they put everything on the line for what they hoped would be their country.
We may never be in that same position but we can all be more active citizens, not only by voting, but by paying attention to what our public officials say and do.
Slavery may no longer be an issue, but living wages are. The education of all our children is everyone’s business as is the city’s priorities. Determining what effects development have on our environment and our pocketbooks is also everyone’s business.
The price of freedom is not just vigilance but getting involved.