Due to the dry conditions in the Coconino National Forest and within the city of Flagstaff, it looks like fireworks on July 4 might be a forgone event this year, much like it was last year. While fireworks are great - synonymous with the Fourth of July much like Santa Claus is synonymous to Christmas - we must not forget the true reason behind celebrating the Fourth of July.
Each day, thousands of our troops are fighting for not only our independence, but for those countries where many freedoms that we as Americans take for granted are very hard to come by, such as the freedom of speech. Whether you realize it or not, that most basic of rights gives you and every other American the right to say what we want to say without being afraid to say it. In other countries, people are often killed simply for speaking out against the government or against those in power. Some punishments for speaking out against the government are simply too atrocious to mention here.
Here in America though, we are free to speak out against our government, to protest policies that we don't agree with, and to openly condemn public officials in order to better effect change for ourselves and our communities. This year is a perfect example of that as we edge closer to the eve of a new era when we freely choose a new leader for our country.
Here in America, we are free to express ourselves in many shapes and forms as evidenced by the myriad newspapers (such as the Navajo Hopi Observer), magazines and television programs. No matter where you go in America, you can easily pick up a copy of the newspaper and read about the latest in business trends while watching what Johnny Knoxville and the rest of the "Jackass" gang are up to on TV.
Here in America, we have a fundamental right to practice whichever religion we choose to acknowledge without fear of being persecuted or ridiculed. We are free to pray in church, or in a temple, synagogue, sweat lodge or kiva. It doesn't matter what god(s) you believe in because here in America, you are free to worship them all.
Again, these are just a few of the most basic of rights that we as Americans get to enjoy, but it does come with a bit of a price. Our beloved sons, daughters, brothers, fathers, mothers, cousins and numerous other family members out in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places where there is war and civil unrest are bravely fighting to keep our fundamental freedoms intact while at the same time, ensuring that those who have never experienced such freedom get to experience what it feels like at least once in their lifetime.
So, no matter what religion you practice, take a few moments to pray freely for those fighting for our country's independence, not just on July 4, but every day. Whether you agree or disagree with the current government policy to keep our troops fighting, make your voice heard by our government officials.
Finally, whether you are able to enjoy fireworks this year or not, please have fun on the Fourth with your family and friends, but do so safely!