For some Americans, the real meaning of Independence Day has been lost amid the barbecues, hot dogs, hamburgers and funnel cakes.
They will go to fireworks celebrations in their communities. There may be bands playing patriotic music and everyone will sing the national anthem as they have done all of their lives.
A few will have forgotten the true meaning of the words, while others may simply be singing the words from memory without giving them any thought. Before reading further, I suggest you stop for a moment to listen to the Star-Spangled Banner as you may never have heard it before. Try to envision what Francis Scott Key saw as he stood on a British warship in 1814.
The following links best describe the bravery and sacrifice that kept Old Glory flying even though over a hundred British warships trained their cannons on the flag.
The next time you sing the national anthem, remember what is behind the words. A handful of poorly armed colonists went up against the entire British Fleet and the largest army in the world and they won.
Some Americans take our freedoms for granted. They may have studied the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But they never lived without our freedoms so they may not have any idea of how important our rights are to us.
They have never seen their families arrested in the middle of the night and taken to concentration camps. They have not watched their fathers work hard and long each and every day only to have the product of their labors confiscated by kings, warlords or dictators.
To those who served in the military to defend America and to protect our rights, freedom is more than just words. It is something that must be defended with their blood and treasure. We are free today because our veterans fought and many died to protect our nation, our constitution and our rights.
I believe that George Washington's definition of an American is simple yet profound.
"The thing that sets the American Christian apart from all other people in the world, is that he will die on his feet before he will live on his knees."
In today's world, I'm sure some people would strike the word Christian from Washington's statement. To those people, I say that freedom of religion is the cornerstone of America. Washington was a Christian and America was a Christian nation in his time.
The Founding Fathers crafted a constitution for us that gave everyone in America freedom of religion. America opened their doors to people of all faiths and they came to this country with nothing but hopes and dreams. They were Christians and Jews and Muslims. They were Hindus and Buddhists and Wiccans. Some were even atheists or agnostics.
America is one of the few countries in the world where you can practice your religion without reproach or choose not to be religious at all.
No other country has the freedoms guaranteed to us in the Constitution. We can say what we wish. We can live where we want. We can choose to work or not to work. We can go to school or we can learn a trade.
We can buy houses for our families. We can own property, stocks and bonds and freely buy and sell them. We can even own firearms to protect our families and ourselves.
In Canada, handguns are banned and rifles, if you can get one, are strictly controlled.
I came to this country because I realized that I could never succeed in my homeland. Canada suffers from the "Tall Poppy Syndrome." Those who are successful are resented by others, constantly attacked and criticized for their accomplishments. Even members of my own family ostracized me for saving my money, investing it and eventually emigrating to the United States.
People in many nations openly detest America and all that it stands for. Privately, their citizens wish to come to the United States. Some do it legally; others just walk across the border. But come they do because this nation truly is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
In my working career, I traveled extensively. I would listen as others blasphemed America and criticized the American people. These hypocrites detest America, Americans and everything we stand for. Yet when disaster strikes, they always cry out to America for help. And help we do.
The American people and government always respond quickly and decisively. We even come to the aid of our enemies! What other nation does that? When disaster strikes, Americans are often the first ones to deliver aid, supplies and assistance. Sometimes we even have to build airstrips so that we can fly in first responders and supplies that are desperately needed.
We don't ask to be repaid. We do it because it is the right thing to do.
When I was a young man I used to sit with my grandfather and listen to Gordon Sinclair on the radio. He was a broadcaster on radio station CFRB. Every weekday he did a five-minute broadcast called Let's Be Personal. On June 5, 1973, when everyone was attacking the Americans, he broadcast an inspiring defense of America and Americans. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfL6WHdCsl8&feature=related)
The broadcast was quickly repeated on other radio stations in Canada. It rapidly spread to the United States where California Gov. Reagan heard it.
He was so moved by it that on his first official trip to Canada eight years later he asked to meet the author. Prime Minister Trudeau had Mr. Sinclair flown to Ottawa for the presidential reception. President Reagan told Mr. Sinclair that he had a record of his broadcast and played it in his California home when things looked gloomy.
I for one do not want to see "The Americans" by Gordon Sinclair forgotten by history. I think it should be played on every radio station in America every July 4th.
Red Skelton, an American comedian in the early days of television, performed another awe inspiring patriotic broadcast. His rendition of 'The Pledge Of Allegiance" moves me every time I hear it. Again, take a moment and listen to it. Don't be surprised if it brings a tear to your eye. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZBTyTWOZCM)
I wish every child could watch Skelton's rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. They learn to say the words, but they may not truly understand the meaning of those words and how important they are to each and every American. Red Skelton explains it in simple language that every child can understand.
I am truly thankful that I was able to come to this country and become an American. I love this country and all that it stands for. These days, I hear a lot of American bashing from the Hollywood crowd.
Even though they are critical of our country, they remain here. In their heart of hearts, they know that only in America can they be truly free.
We really do live in the land of milk and honey. Every one of us should get down on our knees and be thankful for our blessings.
© 2012 Gordon Smith All Rights Reserved