Just four months ago, few, if anyone, recognized that the greatest threat to American freedom in more than a century was at our doorstep.
It was a thorny creature less than a micron in size called the coronavirus and with frightening speed this organism spread across the land and decimated the nation.
The disease it caused, known as COVID-19, killed more than 120,000 people, put millions of Americans out of work, shut down schools and sports and put the economy into a recessionary tailspin.
It fell to us to reassert the freedoms we, until then, took for granted. But those freedoms came with heavy responsibilities.
In no time, eight words written by Jules Verne 150 years ago came to vivid life: “All men are responsible to all other men.” We can be free, but we must not infringe on the freedom of others.
We’re learning this today from the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a sort of declaration of independence, a demand for independence from the forces of oppression, from the thickheadedness of bigotry, from the fear that young Black men feel before they are cut down by white men in uniforms.
We are just beginning to come out of what kids in the 1990s called a “social coma.” We are awakening, as Rip Van Winkle did, to a different world. But we still have the basic freedoms that America stood for on the Fourth of July 244 years ago. The coronavirus robbed us of our festivals and fairs this summer, but we can celebrate, in our own ways, the values that make us independent.