The next time you celebrate your birthday, be sure to invite all your friends and family so they can sit around and pick you apart piece by wretched piece. Then let them eat cake. Or watch fireworks. Oh, and make sure everyone has a day off.
Don’t mind me, I’ve been reading my twitter feed.
It’s been fashionable for several decades to delve into the details of the patriot’s lives and judge them by the today’s standards. Letting your ‘hair down’ as my compatriots coined in the 60’s also means taking a pot shot at your neighbor’s as well. I’m kind of tired of it all.
To be sure, making judgements is essential to sustainable life, and completely natural. If we never saw disparity in political systems, we would be far worse off than we are, in fact, we wouldn’t be here, we’d be in a monarchy. I understand that there is a natural balancing reaction to the romanticizing of the past. The older I am the more I get this.
But for one day, can we soften the tone and celebrate the goodness of a thing like America?
The founding fathers and mothers truly gave their lives for an idea that, at the time, was unheard of. That a group of people, not originally tribally connected, could band together and find a way to rule themselves. And they weren’t just thinking of themselves. Their ideal stretched far in to the unforeseeable future. John Adams wrote of a cause that concerned the “lives and liberties of millions yet unborn”. He and his wife Abigail, wrote over a thousand letters back and forth, and her letters to Adams and to Thomas Jefferson offer insight into this remarkable woman, playing single mother at home while John was away tending to political matters. “We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them,” she writes, and melts down the family silver and pewter to make musket balls when she hears the supply is all but gone. There were party disagreements, there were even duels between political figures…
Then, against all odds, it began to work. Oh, there were problems. We didn’t always agree. We exploited whole people groups. But that is where the beauty of America shines most brightly. People spoke against this, and we listened. Changes were made, gradual but measurable. Because at the bottom of everything we are is the ridiculous hope that if we listen to each other, flawed as we are, we the people, might be able to make it right. Thomas Jefferson wrote,”no man has greater confidence, than I have, in the spirit of our people”.
As a bonus, remember we’ve given the world some pretty awesome things, like the telephone, electric lights, the polio vaccine, mass production of the automobile, the airplane, the first man on the moon, and internet technology.
We’ve made horrible mistakes, and continue to do so to this very day. But there are voices. And we listen. We must listen, because that’s how America moves forward, by listening to herself. Because in a world filled with power struggles, America continues to believe in the sovereignty of the individual. And that’s not something to throw away.