July 4th. Independence Day. A few thoughts about my country.
It is worth mentioning that our present problems at the border concern people trying to get here, not leave. In nearly all of our history it has been so. We don’t consider building fences to keep people in, we consider fences to stem the tide of people desperately trying to come here, to America. With all of our flaws, and there are many, the people of the world have voted with their feet, and it’s here where they want to be.
It is easy right now to think of America as a nation in decline, and honestly, perhaps we are. We don’t build things like we used to. We don’t lead the world in productivity anymore, our education system is a national disgrace. And yet we are still the center of entrepreneurial energy. We still are one of the few places on this planet where the son of a sharecropper can grow into a man with a doctorate in theology, and produce four college educated children who beget children with Master’s degrees.
So, on this 238th anniversary of our independence, let’s remind ourselves what it was exactly that we declared independence from. I know full well that the revolution is a complicated story. There were a lot of moving parts and more sub-plots than an Agatha Christie novel. But basically, we fought a war because we were tired of someone thousands of miles away telling us what to do! If you think about it, nothing has changed in the deepest core of the American soul. We still resist and resent anyone telling us what to do, the further they are from us and our lives the greater the resentment. We might get agitated a little if the local school board member does something stupid, but when some bureaucrat from the Department of Education starts ordering us around…watch out!
Since our founding, we Americans have been identified with rugged individualism. In recent years we have lost some of it. In some circles, even the term is derided. We are told that it takes a village to do the things that our parents used to do mostly by themselves. It is insinuated that “individualism” is some sort of code word for anarchy. We are encouraged to look to government for solutions to our problems, and without a doubt, some things that we the people can’t do for ourselves, we need a robust and capable government. But those men who signed the Declaration of Independence and pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, couldn’t possibly have dreamed that the government they formed would end up so intertwined into the daily lives of its citizens.
Still, our forefathers knew when they signed their names that if the revolution failed, they would all be hanged as traitors, and they were all willing to die for the chance to live as free citizens of a Republic.
I think it was Ben Franklin who famously said, “Well, now you have your Republic. We will see if you can keep it.” For 238 years we have kept it, but each year it bears less and less resemblance to the nation that won its independence from Great Britain. I some ways that’s good. Slavery has been abolished, women have the right to vote, workers have more rights and protections than ever. But in other ways we have gone astray, in no other area more than the realm of personal privacy and individual liberty.
But on this 4th of July, I’ll take the United States of America over any place on Earth, warts and all.