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Sun, Jan. 26

Editorial: Fourth of July - lessons in reason

Today is the Fourth of July. It is not supposed to be about "freedom" - a word that does not appear in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. It also is not about the "bombs bursting in air." Those came later.

Today we celebrate the approval and signing of the Declaration of Independence, which did not actually happen on July 4.

This day is a huge deal in American history - one that Thomas Jefferson later called a "signal of arousing men to burst their chains ... to assume the blessings and security of self-government ... (and to restore) the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion."

Do not confuse, though, "self-government," which means government by an American government instead of British rule, not government by each of us on our own.

And "freedom of opinion" is not what the First Amendment means. Here, it is chained to "exercise of reason," meaning something different.

In the process of crafting the Declaration, the framers certainly argued. Some might have nobly put their differences aside, but we suspect there also was plenty swapping of favors to get to agreement. That is how diplomacy is accomplished: no one gets everything they want, but most everyone gets something they need.

An exercise of reason.

In truth, America today is celebrating the ability of a small group of people to do something in 1776 that a larger group seems unable to do today: rise above their differences to create something of a greater truth and more lasting values than any one person or faction could have or should have done alone.

So, today is certainly a day when we look back at the birth of our nation and the rights our Founding Fathers cherished.

It is not about the trimmings and hot dogs ... or the fireworks. It is a day to celebrate, yes, yet also a day to learn from the past.

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