Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Fourth of July

american flag animation
Way back in 1982 I woke up one day and discovered the brutal reality that in my post high school days, weeks, months and years my life had become somewhat meaningless. So I joined the Navy’s delayed entry program. I won’t bore you with the details as to how that decision came to be but suffice it to say it did, and in the eight months before I went into active duty I decided to start off by being the best sailor I could be. One of the things I set out to do was to understand fully what I’d signed up for. So I sat down and memorized all of the general orders verbatim as well as the history and traditions of the Navy. The most life changing part that I committed to memory was the enlisted oath.

"I, Brett Ashton, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

"…Support and defend the Constitution of the United States…" kind of stands out in this oath because it is placed first and foremost above all other lower considerations like presidents and officers. Over the years since, I undertook the project of understanding exactly what that meant, since after all, I had just sworn to potentially give up my life for it. In doing so over the years since, I have come to realize that my education in not only the Constitution but the Declaration of Independence is potentially far superior to the oath I took to fight and die for it, because far more often than not, fighting is not necessary in the face of understanding, nor is the possibility of a fight against us the largest threat to our Constitution or Declaration and the freedoms postulated within them. The largest threat is ignorance of them and what they really say and why they say what they do.

This kind of ignorance is caused by not actually having read them for yourself and understood the exact meaning of each sentence. The kind of ignorance caused by taking the words of other people as experts who may have had some dishonest or biased motivation or interest in your misunderstanding the principals within. These documents are binding contracts between our government and us. More importantly they are written for us.

I hope for all of my family and friends to have a safe and happy Independence Day as well as all of their friends and families. My only wish for myself this year, as a man who took the oath to fight and, if need be, die to protect our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, is that you will take the time to read them and understand them for yourself. In doing so you would have fought back to that degree the thing which threatens us the most. So that others like me, who took the oath, some of them dying as a result, will not have done it in vain.

After all, it’s only our freedom that is at stake.

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