On at least one day of the year — today — it’s seemingly unpatriotic to point out the areas in which even the greatest nation on earth could improve. Rather, this is the day to celebrate its many achievements and the bold experiment in freedom and self-government that has been sustained through 231 years.

Any accomplishments, and any flaws, that might be credited to the United States of America are nothing more than the accumulated efforts of generations of its citizens. The principles for which America stands and the actions it takes to promote them — or at other times ignore them — are all to the credit or the blame of “we the people.” We the people support those actions through active support of our representatives in government, or oppose them through dissenting dialog. Unfortunately, too many citizens allow those representatives to assume office and develop policy without offering any input at the ballot box or elsewhere.

For many, the spirit of Independence Day involves fireworks displays, festivals, outdoor recreation and visits with family and friends. One event has already occurred in Bangs last Friday night. With the absence of local public celebrations today, Brown County residents will need to travel to other locations like Comanche or Rising Star — weather permitting — to observe the Fourth today. But the big fireworks display at Lake Brownwood remains scheduled for this Saturday, and hopefully residents of those neighboring areas along with hundreds more will join that party.

The Fourth of July is one national holiday on which community celebrations are important, and that is true whether crowds gather to commemorate it on July 4 or on the nearest weekends. The significance of this day goes far beyond a gathering of friends or a family reunion. While individual freedoms are a cornerstone of our nation’s founding documents, they cannot persist without efforts by each citizen to preserve those freedoms for others — multitudes of others, most of whom we do not know, may never meet and with whom we may disagree. Members of the armed forces fight to protect those freedoms. Lawmakers draft laws that, under the U.S. Constitution, extent those freedoms. Citizens perpetuate liberty by exercising those freedoms, and by their lawful actions that respect the freedoms of others.

This is a day for each of us to celebrate, and to celebrate with all Americans who cherish liberty — not only for themselves, but for others.

Brownwood Bulletin