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The quest for independence

Posted: July 3, 2014 8:25 a.m.
Updated: July 4, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Sometimes, the most challenging thing about writing this weekly column is coming up with a topic, but that’s not at all the case this week. My columns run on Friday and even if July 4 wasn’t on Friday this year I would still have written my column about the holiday.

Let me be the first, in print anyway, to wish you a happy Independence Day. I hope yours is filled with lots of good food, family, fireworks and all that this holiday means to you. Please, if you purchase and use your own fireworks, heed the warnings of the local fire chiefs I quoted in a front page story Wednesday about being extra careful with fireworks, supervise your children and grandchildren and have a water hose nearby in case of mishap.

Another thing, if you choose to partake of alcohol, do not choose to drive afterward. Have a designated driver or do your drinking in a place where you can stay until sober. Law enforcement has extra officers on the roads today and this weekend, so please don’t ruin your fun with a DUI arrest or worse, an accident.

July 4, 1776. The day it all began. Here and now, 238 years later, it’s hard to imagine what the colonies were like and the oppression the colonists had to endure under the British king and government. Some very brave men got together, jointly decided “enough is enough” and started a revolution to break away from England and form an entirely new nation. They surely had confidence they would prevail, but not knowing it for a fact had to be at least a little intimidating.

When I say they were brave, let’s stop and think on that. If a group of men got together today and signed a declaration of independence from the Unites States, they would be branded as traitors. If they physically fought against the government, they would be called terrorists. I’m sure it was no different in 1776, and they not only fought against the government they had at that time, they signed their names to the document that said so! Talk about guts. That took guts.

The penalties for treason and terrorism then were just as harsh as they are now. Who am I kidding? The penalties were worse then and far more swift. Death is death and being executed couldn’t be any worse in 1776 than in 2014, but the sentence of hanging was carried out quickly in those days. There were no endless appeals or prisoner swaps in which five terrorists were traded for one army deserter. No, the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were sticking their necks out, quite literally. If the revolution had not succeeded, they had signed their own death warrants and punched their tickets for a one-way trip to the gallows.

We remember the names of great men who do great things, but in addition to those original 56 there were countless, nameless others who sacrificed their lives, their freedom and their property to fight for the independence of their new nation. I’m proud that a good many of those patriots were from right in what is now Kershaw County. As I always do when a special holiday -- Memorial Day, Veterans Day and now Independence Day -- come along, I urge everyone to take a brief pause, even for just a moment, to think about why we have this most special and entirely American holiday. Think about the bravery the declaration signers demonstrated 238 years ago today and the sacrifices by all those who came afterward to found this new nation. Would we do the same thing today?

Have a happy and safe Independence Day.

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