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Getting fired up about being free

Did you stop on the Fourth of July to count your blessings?

We Americans devote much time to grumbling about what we fear are lost freedoms that we rarely applaud the freedom that we have.

We should praise America with the firing of every Roman candle and the explosion of every firecracker.

There was a time, not so long ago, when fireworks weren't available to every chamber of commerce. In those "good, really old days," patriotic Americans "blew up the anvil" to celebrate the Fourth.

It was easy. One thing that most communities had in those days was a blacksmith shop. Inside the Smithy's shop was a large block of metal he called an anvil.

Believe it or not, it was fashionable to place the anvil in an open place, tamp gunpowder under it, light the powder and blow the 50- to 100-pound anvil high in the sky.

Don't try this at home because it could be dangerous, even if you are lucky enough to have one of those anvils on which blacksmiths pounded to form sharp edges on plowshares and cultivator shovels.

I own a 50-pound anvil, which I use in my shop to pound metal into needed shapes. It was these heavy tools that took the place of cannon to create mighty bangs.

I've never tried it but I saw it done once at the Stuhr Museum's Fourth of July celebration.

I personally don't intend to set off a mighty blast. I don't even have any gunpowder. I do have better sense than to mess with this dangerous stuff.

* * *

My point is to blow more about the freedoms that we take for granted. These days, we worry that a Supreme Court decision that might change how we deal with abortion or gay rights or the use of guns.

Then too, some of us decry the Patriot Act's effect on our liberty.

It is proper to worry about such things, because when we lose a freedom we lose the United States as we know and love it. Hopefully, a little thinking reassures us that most of our rights haven't been abridged.

We still are free to boo the umpire or to not attend the game at all. Watching the home team, or the winningest team, has no limits. We don't have to care one way or the other who wins.

The same is true across most of our activities, whether it be which church we attend or which political party we want to support ... or oppose.

Only when a political party tries to abridge our right to vote does it irritate me. I'm worried by the conservative efforts in several states to make it harder to vote ... by limiting voting time or requiring a troublesome identification system. I think such a right is absolute for all citizens and never should be limited.

We should oppose any one, or any group, who would limit American ideals, no matter how patriotic and well-intentioned they try to act.

Darrel Miller lives near Downs in rural Osborne County and is a retired weekly newspaper editor.