This year, our celebration of the Fourth of July finds a nation, gripped by racial anxiety and at odds on just about everything. Even with all the bitterness and acrimony among Americans, the United States remains the strongest democracy in the world even as our ideals, institutions and sense of unity are put to the test.
On Independence Day — our still-young nation’s birthday — it’s important to remember our nation’s resilience.
Start by reading and reflecting on Thomas Jefferson’s timeless and unifying words he penned for the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
As difficult as it is for many of us to accept, that means all people including migrants at the border seeking a better life as well as LGBT people. It means veterans and the elderly. It means conservatives and religious people and patriots who fly the flag and stand for the anthem, as well as liberals and agnostics and protesters who say what’s unpopular and take a knee.
On Wednesday, millions of Americans will celebrate their shared love of country with parades, cookouts, parties and fireworks. Let’s make it a welcome break from the latest Twitter skirmish or escalation in the brewing trade wars. Sparklers can bring us together.
Once the holiday is over, however, all Americans must return to the hard work of citizenship. Men and women in uniform serving overseas project the best of America throughout the world. It’s our job to uphold those ideals at home.
As the 2020 presidential election nears, disagreements and attacks will continue to grow to a fever pitch. The candidates who seek our support should not get away with spouting only condemnation. Better schools, accessible health care, safe communities, an empowered middle class and a clean environment are things all Americans want. The people given the chance to lead should show how they will achieve those goals, not just pay lip service to them. Engaged citizens and responsive leaders are fundamental to the American experiment in self-government.
This nation’s history is checkered with chapters marked by strife, racial tension and the growing pains that come with a changing global economy. The current era carries all of those burdens, but cynicism cannot be allowed to overtake hope.
America is still a land of opportunity, its people a menagerie of dreamers and builders, always seeking a more perfect union.
It’s a struggle we to embrace and celebrate.