These days it’s a real challenge to write about serious matters. Somewhat like walking on broken glass. Therefore, one is left to write about dogs and butterflies, or what they had for breakfast. Even those innocent topics can draw fire from those who are ever ready to be offended. And just try saying something about abortion, guns, critical race theory, climate change, crime, vaccinations, immigration, inflation or education. Good luck with that.
Now it would appear that July 4th has been added to the list of “hot topics”. With the recent Supreme Court ruling that returned the abortion issue back to the states, the whole idea of American Independence has once again gone under the microscope of public opinion.
This is not the first time American Independence has been questioned. Slaves were, by definition, not independent. Even after slavery was abolished, black citizens were only as independent as white citizens would allow. Not that long ago, women by tradition, law and holy scripture had very little independence. Native Americans became dispossessed prisoners, forced on to land not of their choosing. Living in ways they did not know or understand. Independence lost. Those Americans who labored on farms and in factories were only as independent as the next harvest or paycheck. And while new immigrants found America to be a better place than the one they left behind, economic freedom and independence would be hard to come by.
“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…” The Declaration of Independence goes on to insist that Governments exist to secure these “Rights” and when such Governments fail to do so; the people who are governed have the Right to alter or abolish such Governments and institute new ones.
In July 2022 we find ourselves, those who are governed, somewhere between “alter” and “abolish”. The genius of our Founding Fathers was the creation of a Constitutional Republic of States, a Federation, that gave us the best system yet devised by which people might secure those Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. A system of checks and balances, alteration and amendment. But it’s not perfect. Not long after the ink was dry we fought a Civil War where over 600,000 Americans lost their lives in the name of freedom and independence because they could not agree on what those words meant.
On this July 4th, take care America. We must come together peacefully and resume this Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness adventure even if we cannot agree on exactly what those words mean. Perhaps we start by listening more and talking less. Seek to understand, not just to be understood. And we could certainly use fewer fireworks and more forgiveness. Let's try a little tenderness for a change, America.
“Parents wonder why the streams are bitter, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain”
- John Locke