Independence Day seems like a perfect time to ponder America's battlefields, the weapons we choose and the things we think are worth fighting for.
We each have our own list, but I suspect most of us share a love of certain fundamental principles that have shaped our country and our way of life. We likely want the right to flourish and raise our families and be rewarded for hard work. We want our privacy and our choices respected. We want "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Many of the ideals I value most came as a gift straight from the hearts and minds of the people who formed our government more than 200 years ago, outlined in early documents. They were deemed so important that the Founding Fathers included them first in our Bill of Rights: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.
We can worship or not, and we get to choose what we believe about God. I am absolutely a believer, a God-worshiper, but you don't have to be. I can speak my mind and so can you. We can gather in the groups we choose as long as we do it in a lawful manner — even if we're there to protest something the government is doing. We can also petition our government for redress.
Try doing any of that in many parts of the world.
Clearly, given my career choice, freedom of the press is a gift that speaks to me — and that is where I've chosen to serve my country.
There are lots of ways to serve and fight for America — and there are so many facets of life here that we each should be fighting for on a continual basis.
Last week, after five staffers at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were pointlessly, cruelly murdered for doing that very job, I got a message from a Facebook friend telling me to be careful and offering me encouragement in my role as a journalist.
It was especially sweet because friendship was not a given when our relationship began.
To call the first message I ever got from him unfriendly would be an understatement. He vehemently disliked a story I wrote and let me know it in no uncertain terms with an email rebuke that was searing. We went back and forth by email discussing what made him so mad, and as the messages flew from his screen to mine and back, it became an actual conversation. We found we had a lot in common as people.
We've built a healthy rapport, though it's possible we cancel each other's votes sometimes at the ballot box. I think we're both OK with that now. You don't have to agree on everything to fight for the same overarching good.
He certainly doesn't see me as part of some imaginary journalistic conspiracy to take down the country he loves. We know we both love America.
He is a retired Marine who's proud that he fought for his country. I think that in my role as a reporter, I fight for my country, too. And I honestly believe freedom needs soldiers and journalists — and teachers and police and protesters and anyone who wants to strengthen what's good and fix what's broken.
If I didn't believe having an informed and connected community was central to the well-being of the nation, I know for a fact I would not have chosen to spend so much time in legislative hearings or listening to health boards debate or attending commission meetings. I'd have skipped the school board and political debates and read a novel instead of a few hundred 100-plus-page scientific studies that might offer clues to better health.
Journalists cover crime and government and personal finances and water quality and how to lower electric bills and everything in between, and it's almost never glamorous. Sometimes, it's anything but fun. But it's always a way of telling my country I love her and want the best for her — and it's a privilege to be able to serve an important mission. High quality of life hinges on knowing what's going on and understanding the world in which we all live.
I'm glad the Founding Fathers thought so, too.