For many of us who are normally in the middle of the working week, today is a day of sleeping in a little later, of a second cup of coffee at breakfast while lingering over the morning’s newspaper instead of grabbing and gulping, for whittling down a ‘honey dew’ list just a bit on what should be a day more of contemplation than celebration, today, the 4th of July.
Before it gets really crazy busy today, perhaps each of us should look in the mirror and then take a look around at the country we received from our parents and their parents and which we are giving to our children and theirs. There’s been as much gained as there has been lost through the tears and years and some of what has changed has been better and some of it has only been different. The dilemma is in the deciding which.
By many accounts the heat was oppressive and tempers were hot in Philadelphia two hundred and thirty six years ago as malcontents and troublemakers (in the eyes of His Majesty, George III, King of England) gathered to refine, define and catalog their grievances and complaints with the most powerful empire the world had ever seen.
Enumerating what it called our ‘unalienable rights’ to include ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ the founders of our republic, who did not agree on very much except that the present state of affairs could not continue, concluded the only way forward as a people on a largely unexplored, new continent whose size and wealth was not yet known, was to break with the past and declare independence from King and Crown.
Out of all of that has come all of this. And along the way, the original magic and meaning has been lost in backyard pool parties, car sales and chicken fried steaks on the barbecue. Our politics is spirited even if our interest isn't and our understanding of the issues is muddled and muted. And, again, it’s not that we all agree with who we are and what we are doing. It’s been suggested we as a nation haven’t been this divided morally, politically and socially since the Civil War. And that should mean far more than it does.
Some say never have so many had so much of life’s material rewards but, others say never have so many struggled to hold on to what they have. On the outcome of this fall’s elections, we are told, hinges the future of our nation-just as has always been the case. It was true then and remains true now.
What may be missing is our national sense of self and our confidence and belief in our own abilities to forever adapt and triumph. We had those traits at the Founding and I would hope, today, each in our own way, we might again find them both for those whose inheritance we are and for those whose promise is yet to be. Happy the 4th of July. May the 5th and all the days that remain be even more so.