EDITORIAL: 244 years of fighting for freedom

York Dispatch Editorial Board

Our country is about to turn 244 years old.

My, how time flies.

You've heard the story, of course, of the Continental Congress gathering in Philadelphia to sever ties between the 13 colonies and Britain after they had frankly had enough of King George III. Taxes on tea and stamps, families forced to provide housing for soldiers, legislative bodies ordered to meet in faraway places or dissolved completely — it was just too much.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are 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."

With those words and the subsequent numeration of injuries to the colonies, the Declaration of Independence separated the colonies from the king on July 4, 1776. 

Of course, that piece of paper didn't end the argument. The American Revolution, which had started a year earlier, continued until 1783. An estimated 6,800 American soldiers died in battle, and another 17,000 died of disease, according to battlefields.org.

A flag raising ceremony Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at Penn Park, marked the first time a flag has flown in the park since 2012. Representative Carol Hill-Evans office purchased the 20'x30' American flag and the City of York provided upgrades to the flagpole and lighting. The York County Department of Veterans Affairs will be in charge of flag replacement as needed. The flagpole at Penn Park has been vacant since 2012. Bill Kalina photo

And the fight for freedom didn't end. It still hasn't ended, through the War of 1812, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the civil rights movement. Today, crowds of protesters continue to take to the streets to demand justice for Black Americans, even in the midst of a pandemic that has other groups marching to state capitals to demand the right to  go against the recommendations of health officials and pretend nothing is wrong.

That's how it should be. One of our core freedoms as Americans is to make our thoughts known, to speak out when we see wrongs, to say our peace, whether right or wrong.

But we often forget that with that freedom comes responsibility. We as Americans have the responsibility to call out injustice when we see it and to hold our leaders accountable for their actions and inactions. 

We also have the responsibility to recognize that there are times when our personal freedoms are eclipsed by the need to promote the general welfare.

The right to free speech ends with the shout of "Fire!" in a crowded theater. The rights of the individual end where the rights of another are infringed on. And there are times when the general welfare weighs more heavily than the rights of the individual. 

Take some time this Independence Day to reflect on the freedoms we have and the cost we have paid for them. Remember those who have fought for this country against foreign enemies and against domestic oppressors. Celebrate those who risked their lives to create a new country 244 years ago.

And if you're marking the occasion with a group, for God's sake, wear a mask. It's a very small price to pay to promote everyone's general welfare.