Saturday, July 2, 2011

Independence Day

            I’m proud to be an American. The source of my pride doesn’t spring from being a member of the richest, most powerful nation in the history of the world. It doesn’t lie in the myriad contributions Americans have made to art, industry and medicine. The source of my pride lies in words and the power of ideas.

            Which words? I’m proud to be a member of a nation which states in its founding documents that this will be a nation of equality, justice and freedom. Who are those promises addressed to? They’re addressed to ordinary people. They’re addressed to you. They’re addressed to me. Two hundred years ago a bunch of d*****d liberals decided to make a grand experiment, and they put forward the principles of equality, justice and freedom as the foundational principles of a new republic. Some of us have heard the words so many times that they have begun to lose their power. Don’t let that happen. Don’t let your familiarity with the words prevent you from seeing either the revolutionary nature of those ideas or of what our founding fathers did. What they did, for the first time in history, was to factor ordinary people into the equation of governance. Our founding fathers wanted to avoid the system that had been in effect in Europe for generations, the system whereby the privileged few controlled and dictated the lives of ordinary citizens. The effect was to re-value human life. That’s extraordinary. It's there that I believe we see the real American Revolution.

            I’m not blind. I know that we as a nation have, too many times, lost sight of and, therefore, fallen far short of making our lofty principles a reality for every citizen. There have been instances of gross inequality, instances of shameful injustice. There have been times when liberty was inappropriately denied, but the failure to live up to our values does not undermine the values. It only brings into sharper focus the tendency of individuals and groups to pursue narrow, self-serving courses. The principles are not sullied, and they continue to stand as beacons in the dark night of human enterprise and governance. We need those beacons just as much in our day as our predecessors did in theirs.

            Some say that your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness, and vice versa. For me, personally, that might be the fact that I’m an idealist. Even in my sixth decade, I still believe that the principles of equality, justice and freedom can be applied widely and evenly. Even though I see today in our nation what appears to me to be a gross inequality between certain segments, I’m an idealist, and I keep believing that someone else out there, someone with influence and power, also wants to uphold the promises which the founders of this country made to us and to our children and to our grandchildren more than two hundred years ago. Shouldn't the American Revolution be ongoing?

            Have a safe holiday.

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