More Smoke Than Fireworks: The True Meaning of the 4th

Liberty is a bold yet brief ideal, not unlike the fireworks that brighten the nighttime sky: colors that become scribblings of smoke and streamers that fade to black, until the party ends and the music stops.

If liberty itself ceases—if it is more of a façade than a fact of life—we have nothing to celebrate and a great deal to fear, because freedom is never free of threats from within and without. It is never without its critics who are too sensitive to read or hear words they do not like; who seek to suppress unpopular speech and popularize codes of conduct by criminalizing certain kinds of speech; who hate the right of others to hate what they purport to love; who themselves have little or no tolerance for dissent; who call their opponents enemies and attempt to exile them from society.

It is easy to spot evildoers in white robes, while it is less easy to accept—and hard for many to believe—that those who burn crosses are less of a menace than those who wear academic robes and want to ban an ever-growing number of books.

One is racist and violent, contemptuous of blacks, Jews, and Catholics. Its cowardice is visible by the way its members—grand wizards with perverse visions of glory—hide their faces but reveal their eyes. Their reputation precedes them, while they proceed to march against the headwinds of history. Soul force will repel their repulsive ideology, provided they have a right to march and we meet their chants of white power with cries of power to all people.

The other is neither benevolent nor benign. It degrades the vigilance necessary to sustain freedom by making the observant obsessive. It sees fascism everywhere and never fails to see what matters: the truth.

Why bother ourselves with the truth, when it denies what we think we know and dispels what we wish were true?

If our republic is to endure, we had better ensure our flag is still there.

Liberty is the proof we need because it is the only way we will survive the night, so we may see that star-spangled banner wave.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

About Ashley Hamilton

Ashley Hamilton is an artist and father, who lives in Malibu and seeks to express the truth through his work.

Photo: double exposure of fireworks over night city and USA flag

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.