We come to the Fourth of July amid times that arguably are the most unstable since the 1960s. Civilians have taken to the streets to protest what they consider unreasonably heavy-handed police procedures; governors have sought the involvement of National Guard troops to address some public protests.
A global pandemic has shut down many businesses and other public venues, and with them much of the economy, and arguments erupt virtually everywhere over requests to wear facemasks and take other precautions to promote public health. Even most sports, from school level to professional leagues, have been shut down to fight the spread of the potentially fatal coronavirus, taking away one of the only emotional outlets that many people normally enjoy.
Happy birthday, America.
Our national angst, and valid fears for our own health and safety, might lead many Americans to feel that this holiday offers little reason to celebrate; our great experiment in democracy and governance by the governed has been put to the test in the minds of many people.
Certainly, it is unfortunate that many of our public debates have degraded into hateful speech and even violence. But frank debate on the issues is one of the primary elements that make our country great.
It’s good to look back at our nation’s creation and the conditions in which it occurred. Not only did the 13 upstart colonies choose to go to war with what was one of if not the most powerful military forces in the world. They did so to assume rights that would require that they make their own decisions and forge their own futures — for better and for worse. There was much resistance, with many colonists convinced that the benefits of living under the British Crown outweighed the uncertainty of unfettered freedom.
However, our founding fathers had great confidence in the people’s ability to overcome any difficulties they encountered, and move their new nation forward in ways — and to ends — that man had never reached before.
They were right. Just a few years after gaining its independence, the United States, still dwarfed by larger and older populations throughout Europe and Asia, became the world’s greatest economic power and one of the most influential politically. Our success became the inspiration for freedom-seeking people around the world, and our Constitution, which codifies ground-up governance and limited federal powers, is the most copied code of laws since the Ten Commandments.
On this July 4 weekend, let us remember that our forefathers probably overcame difficulties much greater than those we endure today, and be grateful that we have the freedom to debate in pursuit of the greater good. It’s been said that the greatest freedom begets the most complaints; where there is tyranny there is less dissent, but greater misery.
May we appreciate our freedom to debate, and let the best ideas from our debates continue to move our country ever forward.