I filled the gas tank of my SUV, packed a cooler with Gatorade, a bag of trail mix and six hard-boiled eggs, and I set out on a journey of 1,200 miles that would traverse six states.
For two days, I drove through sun and rain, through the Great Smoky Mountains and across bridges of dizzying heights over the Tennessee River and the Ohio River.
I sped across state borders at 77 mph, and I hardly spoke to anyone, save a gregarious cook at a Waffle House in Georgia. And I only stopped when I wanted to. No border control agents, no customs and no checkpoints or being asked for my papers.
On several other continents, enjoying a similar road trip may be impossible or forbidden. But in the United States of America, unfettered interstate travel is one of my precious freedoms, and one which we should never take for granted.
Additionally, while driving across the country, I could tune to multiple radio stations, ranging from the Howard Stern show on satellite radio, featuring liberal political views and obscene language, to the Sean Hannity program, a right-wing political action committee posing as a talk show.
Most important, there was no government-controlled radio or TV dictating what I hear or see. With two fingers, I could dial in schools of thought across the entire political spectrum, either embracing or trashing the very government that guarantees the free airwaves, because I live in America.
I wrote an essay recently that was published in three newspapers, in which I criticized the leader of this country for telling lies, and for mishandling information even when it was the truth; and the papers were read by tens of thousands of people.
But I was not detained, interrogated or arrested, which might have been the case in, say, Russia, North Korea or the People's Republic of China, among other places. Instead, I had protection from generations of American soldiers who fought and died for our freedoms of speech and the press, which, again, we should never take for granted.
Afterward, some readers affirmed and some rebutted my column, exercising those same freedoms. In fact, in the United States of America, there is no impediment to any citizen publishing a letter to the editor calling a columnist an ignoramus, their president a moron, their mayor a coward or even their God a disappointment. Yet in too many other countries, those same individuals might be dead men walking.
I am not rich, but I have owned boats all my life, with which I've plied the waters in Wisconsin, Illinois, Alabama, Florida and elsewhere to catch bass, pike, trout or grouper.
And if I had the notion, I could launch one into the Calumet Sag Channel and motor to Lake Michigan, where, after taking on fuel, I could sail north, under the Mackinac Bridge to Lake Huron, then across Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, proceeding east through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the North Atlantic, and on to Europe, down to Africa and back across the "pond" to Brazil.
With a credit card and a passport, I have the keys to other continents, free to choose where I want to roam on this planet, all thanks to the generations before me who sacrificed mightily for the freedom, resources, wealth and power we enjoy in this land.
Certainly success is not guaranteed, and the pursuit is too often much harder for some because of race, ethnicity, wealth or residential ZIP code. Yet every citizen of this country is, nonetheless, free to try to become anything they wish, whether it's a paperboy, a teacher, an artist, a janitor, a public official, an entertainer, a race track policeman, a grocery clerk, an independent contractor, a carpenter, a journalist or a truck driver – all roles I was at liberty to assume.
Admittedly, I have occasionally taken our amazing way of life for granted, not always remembering the courage and sacrifice of those who made my indulgences possible.
But at this moment in history, our freedoms are jeopardized by an administration that threatens the free press, labeling it our "enemy" and even canceling daily news briefings; is determined to build a wall across our southern border; has imposed tariffs that levy a burdensome tax on consumers while obstructing free trade; has abridged free speech by punishing critics; has been conspiring to overturn Roe v. Wade, to deny women rights over their bodies; and has sought to curtail and deny our sacred right to vote, under the guise of a census citizenship question.
We must, therefore, celebrate and honor Independence Day this year by resolving to use the ballot box in upcoming state primaries and the subsequent federal election in order to "fire" any public officials and posers, starting at the very top, who are corrupting our democracy and conspiring to rob American citizens of the freedoms that have made this the greatest country on Earth.