At least once an hour during the many television newscasts leading up to the 4th of July, some mushhead with a microphone asks Joe Citizen the same question: “Are you afraid to be out celebrating Independence Day?”

As it turns out, some are, some aren’t. U.S. Park Officials expects the numbers to be down for the annual 4th of July festivities on the Mall in Washington, but that may be due more to the oppressive heat gripping the Nation’s Capital along with the oppressive security surrounding the event.

But while fewer may turn out for high-profile events in Washington and New York, sponsors of holiday events in smaller towns and suburbs expect larger crowds for their neighborhood fairs, parades and fireworks. The theory is that a nutcase with a bomb is less likely to show up for a 4th of July shindig in Lebanon, Illinois.

Which is exactly what I’d do if I were a fanatic with a desire to blow myself to bits in a vain effort to meet Allah and cavort with 40 virgins. Why try to run the gauntlet of troops, counter terrorism squads and F-16s in Washington when I can walk right past a local sheriff whose expertise is setting up a sobriety checkpoint on a country highway?

Sooner or later, it’s going to occur to the lunatics who follow Osama that the way to strike real terror here in the land of the free is not by flying a hijacked plane into a skyscraper but rather by taking out a passel of children at a rural school in Oklahoma.

Talk to a guy who works on K Street in Washington, just a few blocks from the White House and he will admit he gets nervous every time a plane flies just a little too low overhead or he hears a police siren.

But talk to someone who drives 60 miles each day from Hillsville, Virginia, to work at his job in Christiansburg in the next county and he’ll brag about how they don’t see any ragheads in his neck of the woods.

Armed jet fighters patrol the airspace over major cities, Humvees with machine guns protect the riverside road running past the Pentagon and security guards search every vehicle that enters the airport parking garage at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, but little or nor security can be found at the huge gasoline storage tanks at a refinery in Harftford, Illinois, or guarding a little league baseball game in Dothan, Alabama.

“And that is precisely our weakness,” says security expert James Hargill. “This is a vast country where the majority of Americans come and go as they please in rural areas where law enforcement is scattered and security is nil. This makes us extremely vulnerable to attack.”

Does this mean we should spend the 4th of July huddled in our homes, afraid to answer the door or even to venture out to the local Dairy Queen stand for a dipped cone?

Hell no. Today is Independence Day. It’s the day we celebrate the fact that we are the most free, most independent, most stubborn country on the planet. Our system of government may have its flaws, our leaders may be less than perfect and our publicly-owned companies may be controlled by lies and greed, but this is America, damnit, and no madman with a towel on his head and hate in his heart is going to destroy it.

So enjoy this 4th of July.

Be happy.

Be safe.

Be free.

Just be wary.