By Kevin Wilson
The story of my July 4 evening is probably not much different than the story of a lot of people reading this right now. I was a spectator at the annual Portales fireworks show, and I was one of many to be pleased that rain wasn’t a participant as well.
I made my way through the crowds, bigger at some buildings than others. Regardless of where I stopped, I asked the person standing next to me what the holiday, and the independence it represented, meant to them.
Most gave a standard, but certainly acceptable answer. To put it eloquently, those people told me that independence basically meant their lives — for without the notion of independence, there’s no telling what direction they might have taken or what opportunities they wouldn’t have available.
I wasn’t so eloquent when one of those people passed the question back to me, and it echoed like the loud boom of a firework. After asking the question so effortlessly, I now had to put effort into a response.
And what did I tell him?
“Oh, it means a lot of things.”
I’ll take these next few paragraphs to be more eloquent.
Independence means acknowledgement. It means we should recognize and respect the sacrifices that people made before us, but know the fine line between respecting those sacrifices and trumpeting them for an argument when facts won’t do the job. It means believing in any religion we wish, but insisting that our government not embrace a religion — after all, many came here (and still do) with an intent to escape religious persecution of any kind.
Independence means power, along with the inclusion of responsibility. We have the power to speak freely, but a responsibility to speak in a manner that adds to an intellectual debate. We as individuals have buying power far greater than our ancestors, but a responsibility to not waste it all on gadgets and SUVs in a simple attempt to keep up with our neighbors.
Independence also means respect. It means we disagree with our leaders instead of calling them idiots or puppets for big business. It means we counter dissenters with intellectual arguments, rather than calling them un-American or dismiss them as having no new ideas.
Independence means all of those things to me, and several more. It’s been 229 years since a document was signed with an intent to give me and others independence. Hopefully, we’re a little bit better at using it with every passing year.
Kevin Wilson is the managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be reached at 356-4481, ext. 33, or by e-mail: