By Christie Pool
Last year around the Fourth of July our family travelled to Boston where we visited the storied Faneuil Hall, a marketplace and meeting place since 1743. It was the site of inspirational speeches by Samuel Adams and other patriots who encouraged our independence from Great Britain. It was from here, following some of these speeches and debates, that Bostonians, on December 16, 1773, ran out of the hall, down to the waterfront and destroyed a whole lot of tea. Today we refer to this as “The Boston Tea Party” and recognize it as one of the polarizing events that eventually led to our war for independence against Britain.
It was a wonderful experience to sit in the hall’s upstairs meeting room and participate in a “mock debate” of issues of that time. Perhaps what struck me most listening to the debates was the style in which people used to argue. They did so with dignity and in a decorous, respectful manner. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, they would occasionally tar and feather someone whose views didn’t sit well with the crowd.
That type of debate – thoughtful and respectful - seems so foreign in today’s world where we are able to spout off hate-filled remarks in an instant through social media.
They may have hated each other’s opinions then - many of those folks feeling the outcome of war with England would send them and their families into bitter, long-lasting hardships - but they were respectful to each other and used the forum of debate to challenge each other’s theories rather than allowing them to slide into pointless name calling.
To say now that America was right to revolt is obvious. But back then, the arguments presented by both sides – the patriots and the loyalists – carried the same fire as the hot topics of today. To pick one side against the other could put your neck on the line and get you labeled a rebel, an agitator or a dangerous person. But they did it. They took a stand and we are the better for it today. The patriots knew that if they weren’t successful, they would be hung.
So as we celebrate our independence this Fourth of July, let us strive to be the prodigies of our forefathers and use our minds and tongues in thoughtful debate of our own topics today.
Let’s continue to be a country of opinionated, thinking people who are always prodding fellow citizens to greater achievements. But let’s do it with respect in our hearts and minds and tongues.
We have more venues than ever to voice our opinions and, thankfully, more people are speaking out and being heard. And that’s a good thing. In the pre-internet era, we had to write an opinion column in a newspaper or send a letter to the editor to have our opinions published. Today, anyone can create a website, post a comment on a social networking site – all to a much larger audience. Freedom of speech and our opinions matter and it’s a wonderful thing when people are heard. But let’s remember that while politics should be debated vigorously and often, it’s part of who we are as Americans to use our freedoms respectfully and meaningfully.
Some loudmouthed browbeater online insulting people (even politicians) is not the same thing as a debate. A debate focuses on the ideas, not the personalities.
Our forefathers succeeded in their endeavors while respecting one another and today we reap the fruits of their success. The freedom they granted us on the Fourth of July, 1776 is ours to celebrate. Pride and patriotism in our country should always be remembered and regarded.
As we raise our flags and enjoy this Saturday’s parades and cookouts, watermelons and apple pies, carnivals and fireworks, let’s celebrate our freedoms and what it means to simply be an American. The Fourth of July is a proud reminder that we, as a nation, have the individual privilege to be whatever we choose to be.
The ideas of freedom and equality and things that came with the Constitution – freedom of the press, freedom of religion – that’s what we celebrate, a freedom afforded all of us, not just those who speak the loudest.