on the Fourth
A day or two before the Fourth, if several decades of experience repeat, my mother, widow of a wounded World War II veteran, will receive an email containing a simple, heartfelt message.
Amid stirring photos of monuments and tombstones will be five words from a now septuagenarian Belgian who somehow survived the Battle of the Bulge in 1944: “Thank you for our freedom!”
The sender wants no publicity about his messages, sent on virtually every holiday to dozens of American he knows had some sort of connection to World War II. It’s the type of gratitude we all should feel on the Fourth and every other patriotic holiday.
As we party and partake of fireworks and libation over the next few days, we must remind ourselves that freedom rarely is free and that any attempt to infringe on it, such as by licensing activities we believe we should be free to undertake, must be met with the type of fury that protected my mother’s Belgian acquaintance so many years ago.
Take, for example, a provision of Marion’s city code. Did you know that the code makes it illegal to conduct any sort of business in Marion without first obtaining a license from the city?
Few if any businesses actually possess such licenses. Even the section of code that mentions them is blank where the fees to be paid are supposed to go. It’s just one of many unused, outmoded, or downright confusing sections of a code desperately in need of revision.
Ever since Marion messed with its governing structure starting in 2004, the city has been held hostage to numerous controversies, most blamed on personalities but all tracing back to ambiguities in the code.
The city attorney and city council even recognized this in January, saying a complete review of such things as the relative powers of the mayor, council members, and administrator was needed.
Six months and many less-than-one-hour meetings later, nothing has been done. If we think everything will be taken care of once we have an election in November, we’re shockingly in error. That same logic has been tried biennially since 2004 and never has solved the problem.
Recognizing problems and addressing them is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
Originally, July 2, not July 4, was going to be America’s Independence Day. That’s when the Declaration of Independence actually was approved, and it’s the date that drafters John Adams and Thomas Jefferson thought should be memorialized.
Likewise, 1776 isn’t the year that America as we know it began. Just as Marion has spent most of two decades struggling to decide exactly how its government should be structured, so did the United States.
The Articles of Confederation that governed our nation until 1789 bear little resemblance to the Constitution and the freedoms it and its amendments guarantee. Even the Constitution wasn’t completely ratified until 1790.
As we celebrate Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, we should remember that our one nation, indivisible, didn’t start out that way and had a major war challenging those words in the middle of its existence.
Accepting that changes need to be made in Marion’s fundamental structure of government and actually starting work on drafting those changes for voter approval would be one of the best ways Marion residents could celebrate the Fourth.
— ERIC MEYER