Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Amid the fireworks


Fireworks light up the night sky over the Maumee River in Toledo.

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Between hot dogs and before the fireworks, Toledoans, like all other Americans, might want to pause and reflect on how lucky we are this July 4.

Our revolution was not a bloodbath, but a one-time battle for constitutional liberty. We have freedom under law.

We wrote down our Constitution, having inherited centuries of law and civil liberty from our British fathers. Ours was an evolutionary revolution, based on a long heritage, and it stuck.

The seed of religious liberty was planted by Thomas Jefferson. It grew and took hold. You can be a Muslim or Zoroastrian in the United States.

History is ironic and often tragic; Mr. Jefferson owned slaves. Seeds of racism were woven into our founding too. We are still working that out. Ours is not always a great culture, but it is a great country.

There was a lot of talk a year ago about the Arab Spring. Democracy appeared to come to Egypt. Throughout the Middle East, tyrants seemed to be on the run— sometimes with relatively few shots fired.

We seemed to be seeing a sudden leap forward in human freedom. But that’s not how history works, or revolutions, or freedom. Look at Egypt today.

History does not progress on a straight line; it zig-zags. Revolutions are followed by counter-revolutions. Both are generally bloody. Freedom takes centuries, not weeks or even decades, to establish.

On matters such as religious freedom, the Middle East sometimes seems to be where the West was centuries ago. But we ought not to feel smug. For hundreds of years, we too burned and beheaded heretics. You believe the wrong things. You must die.

Freedom of worship and conscience is a relatively new idea. Tolerance has never taken hold anywhere overnight. There are still pockets of religious intolerance in America.

Democracy under law is still a tall order. It’s tough to explain to people, and tougher to persuade them to abide by.

Today, whether you are in downtown Toledo, or Bowling Green, or Fostoria, or at another celebration in northwest Ohio or southeast Michigan, enjoy the fireworks. Be grateful for this country.

Happy Fourth.

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