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Every day is the Fourth of July

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Peter Hankoff
July 3, 2011

This July Fourth, the United States of America turns 85,831 days old. That’s only about three full lifetimes when pinned back to back. It makes us one of the new kids on the block, even if we’ve become the strongest. But our true strength isn’t from of our arms. It’s from our independence.


In 1776, there was slavery and empire. There were kings and queens who ruled church and state. They governed who was God, what was God and where was God. There was violent repression of free speech and assembly not unlike Pharaoh’s Egypt, Hitler’s Third Reich or Ahmadinejads’ Islamic Republic of Iran.


In 1776, there was a Declaration of Independence—“that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”


Independence exists because our fathers and mothers and their fathers and mothers, all the way back, dreamed the same dream we do—maybe not for smartphones and flat-screen TVs, but for the hope to live in an environment where we can create those machines and comforts to live and continue to manufacture independence.


I’ve had the honor of meeting those who’ve fought for independence at Pearl Harbor, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Korea, Saigon, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. And in that same spirit, when they came home, they taught and fought with their children and grandchildren about independence in spite of the changing mores and ideas.


But we all keep one thing in common—the right to question and the expectation that our independence will be honored, defended and applied across the board.


I have traveled the world in the past few years. I have visited some of the most unhappy places on Earth—death camps and killing zones and battlefields. I’ve seen border guards with submachine guns and motorcades filled with scary men. And I’ve met many who’ve thought that, for Americans, happiness is a hedonistic, wasteful ideal of burning as much gasoline as we can buy or throwing out half our meals or pouring away gallons of clean water to brush our teeth.


In those same places, I’ve heard American music and seen blue jeans and iPods. But what sells America is our independence to dream ideas and create anew, to express personal and political truth, to buy and sell without shortage, quota or surveillance.


Right now, America faces worldwide strains and economic uncertainty, but there is also hope because this 1776 model for living is robust and far-reaching. It comes at the simple price of guarding our independence with what we unanimously declared hundreds of July Fourths ago, that “we mutually pledge to each our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”


And so I renew my pledge and look forward to day number 85,832 because in the United States of America, everyday is the Fourth of July.


Peter Hankoff (www.peterhankoff.com) of Los Angeles is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has taken him all over the world and all over the cable networks. His programs for “Unsolved History” (Discovery Channel) have taken him inside Hitler’s Bunker and Area 51. His three-part series “Gun Camera” aired on the Military Channel. His “Megadisasters” series (25 episodes) aired for three years on The History Channel. He has created many programs for National Geographic that have taken him everywhere from Auschwitz to Iwo Jima.

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