Today, we ostensibly celebrate those principles, which have served as inspirations for other nations and peoples around the world. Many of us have ancestors who emigrated from other nations who saw America as a veritable oasis that would allow them to be successful and provide a safe and stable place by which to raise a family.
My own great-grandparents came to this country one hundred years ago, fleeing the tyranny of the Habsburg Crown and the awful economic and social conditions of peasantry festering in Galicia (which compose parts of present-day Poland and the Ukraine). They did so even though the government of Austria-Hungary put stiff penalties and jail time for those advocating emigration to America. They did so because they wanted a better life for themselves and their posterity.
But we must also be sober and realise that we have fallen far from those lofty goals set by our Founding Fathers, and the dreams of our ancestors. I daresay that the actions of our government and the utter apathy and ignorance of the American people are a severe insult to these lofty ideals. People don't seem to care what goes on in government or in many cases even know rudimentary facts about how our civic system is to operate. Instead, we have people who seem to care more about what some depraved Hollywood starlet is doing instead of the pernicious villainy that goes on by our lawmakers.
Because of this, we as a people have effectively allowed the very officials we elect to our state and federal governments to be corrupted by special interests. Our government doesn't pay any attention to the citizens, but rather corporations like Monsanto and Goldman Sachs. Our representatives could care less about our natural and legal rights as people, passing heinous laws like the Patriot Act and other vile bills that favour specific wealthy individuals, corporations, and/or cartels because lobbyists and power brokers offer them cold, hard campaign cash in exchange for their acquiescence.
And despite the questions of "how do these nincompoops get into and stay in office?" the story continues because we have people who ultimately decide to cast their votes not based on what is right for the country or what their convictions suggest after weighing out all of the issues facing us as a people, but on petty things such as "who looks better" or "who will give me the most free stuff." Ultimately, both the people and the government officials forget that government isn't to be a master, but a dutiful factotum acting only on the prescriptions of the people.
As Jefferson put it so many years ago, governments derive their just powers by the consent of the governed. Thus, the problems in Congress and the rife corruption that result mean that We The People (yes, that means you and I) are ultimately to blame.
Our executive branch is hardly any better. For starters, the intelligence agencies that operate under its fold have been spying on the people and collecting information with neither the permission of the people nor a Constitutionally-valid warrant from a judge or magistrate in flagrant violation of our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The White House claims authority to be able to imprison and/or kill people, including U.S. citizens, without one jota of judicial review in the name of "fighting terrorism."
I have serious doubts that this is what our Founding Fathers intended. Indeed I would say this kind of demagoguery and chicanery is the very stuff many of our ancestors explicitly wanted to get away from. And here we are, 4 July 2013, acting as if nothing is amiss. People are out there grilling, getting drunk on booze, and watching fireworks whilst chanting "'MURICA!!!" I see it on Facebook. Yet, despite all of the "patriotic" imagery and talks of freedom I have only seen two other people (both of whom are military veterans, no less) comment on how these freedoms that we talk about are being whittled down thread-by-thread at an alarming rate.
Nay, there is nothing good to celebrate today. Instead, we ought to take measure of what is being stripped away in our name and start demanding an end to the crooked system by which we currently have. Our citizens need to be inspired to educate themselves on the civic process and then actively engage in it. I realise this will enrage a lot of people, but dammit, it needs to be said.
Just as much as those brave men who sat in the hot courthouse in Philadelphia 237 years ago and hammered out a visionary dream for mankind despite their discomforts and the risks around them, so too must we ever be unafraid to address the rife villainy that is going on and take principled stands. Our lives, our liberty, and our sacred honour depend on it.