There is a scene in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? in which the three main characters - Pete, Delmar and Everett - pick up a hitchhiker carrying a guitar.
Tommy Johnson tells the three that he'd met the devil at the crossroads the night before, and sold his soul in return for being granted the ability to play the instrument.
"Oh, son," Everett says with horror. "For that you traded your everlasting soul?"
Tommy shrugs. "I wasn't usin' it."
Independence Day is a good time to ask ourselves: Are we nonchalantly giving up our rights just because we don't think we're using them anyway?
No better illustration could come than in the recent special election. Though most people surely understand the importance of voting, barely one-fifth of those eligible in Columbia County exercised that right on June 19.
Put that 21 percent turnout in its proper perspective: Nearly 80 percent of the eligible voters in Columbia County were perfectly willing to allow a tiny minority to decide for them who will represent 100 percent of the citizens in the 10th U.S. House district and in the 24th state Senate district.
We've long lamented that our casual use of the term "July 4th" to describe today's holiday diminishes the value of Independence Day. Giving away our freedoms to an active minority is far more damaging.
As a military community, Columbia County has a tremendous stake in protecting these freedoms: Many of our family members, even now, are putting their safety and lives on the line to safeguard our right to take part in our government.
We can do better. We honor the blood of those who fought to create this nation, and those who still defend its freedom, by exercising our basic rights and responsibilities.
To do so this July 4th, we must pledge to vote in the runoff July 17.
Celebrate independence, by all means, with barbecue and fireworks. But the real celebration comes when we use our right to vote and thereby exercise a fundamental citizenship ritual in a free nation.
Happy Independence Day. Use it, or lose it.
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