“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.”
As you’re driving another hot dog into your gut this Fourth of July, or closing your eyes and wishing your minivan would sprout wings and fly as you sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic to try to watch the fireworks, let that first paragraph soak into your soul for a minute. Just take it in and appreciate what the framers of the Declaration of Independence were doing.
They were braver than brave. They were putting their words to paper, and tying a nice bow on top with their signatures. Let there be no room for misconstruing their intent — they were loudly proclaiming to themselves and the world that they were standing up to the oppressive powers that ruled them, casting off the shackles of tyrannical rule and setting out to build a government and nation of equal people enjoying a land of equal opportunities.
And look at us today.
We are a world leader, both economically and militarily. Our technological advancements — in space, sea and land — have helped shape the course of the entire planet. We have contributed globally in art and music, set fashion trends that run rampant in every corner of the planet and built ourselves up to the point where we can regularly contribute humanitarian aid to, well, humans who need aid.
Are we what we were a decade ago? Or 30 years ago? Or 100 years ago? That’s for someone much smarter than me to determine. Editor’s Note: The list of those who are smarter than this writer starts with Susan Lyons and extends to that stuff that falls out of the bottom of your grill after you cook a bunch of burgers over a high flame.
Look, we can all sit around and debate “the good ol’ days” until we’re red, white and blue in the face. To some, the 1950s represents the proverbial “sweet spot” of Americana, replete with the white picket fence and really, really cool cars. To others, the ’50s was a time of overt racism, misogyny and young people going off to die in Korea. Perspective is derived from individuals’ own experiences, and those in power get the best opportunity to author that perspective to the most people.
How will our current era be remembered in 60 years? Well, I don’t think that chapter has reached its conclusion. If we push pause on time, and just took a snapshot of where we stand today, I think it will be taught in schools that this was a time of divisiveness within our borders. A time when being American has much less significance than being a Republican or a Democrat. We’ve adopted the NFL fandom approach to the world, where we belittle or besmirch anyone who roots for a different team, instead of reveling in the prosperity of the league, or celebrating stars of opposing franchises.
On this topic, I often find myself a little envious of people who can so fully identify with one of the major parties. I hear my friends dive into political browbeating of one another and I want so badly to jump in (I’ve always liked a good fight), but I usually find myself disagreeing with what both people are saying. So I do the mature thing, call one of them ugly and one of them a jerk-face, and go back to my chronic state of becoming more and more confused by the issues at hand.
But I know without confusion that I’m an American, and that still makes me proud today. That doesn’t imply that I feel like I’m better than anyone else, but that I’m... proud.
It’s no secret that there are people around the world who are not fans of ours, many of whom have dedicated their very lives to taking ours. Some of those animosities are spurred by their leaders stirring things up and manipulating their followers into believing we are the forces of evil, and some of it has been earned by our actions, or lack thereof, around the planet.
But I think the people who truly hate Americans have their anger misplaced. If anything, they have issues with our leadership from time to time, just as we have issues with other nations’ leaderships. For example, I have problems with Putin and Assad, but I don’t have any animosity toward Russians or Syrians. They’re just folks trying to get through this wacky rollercoaster of life, just like me. Just like you.
Because it’s the people who truly make a nation great, not the public servants we elect to keep our government running smoothly, and our borders protected at night. They are temporary faces sitting at the big tables in Washington, put there by us to represent the common folks like us, and they can be replaced if they are not being efficient or carrying forward the messages we sent them to Washington to champion.
We are the true Americans, and we are a resilient and caring lot who want our kids to be healthy, our streets to be safe and our pockets to be a little heavier. We want jobs and housing and the feeling when we go to sleep at night that we are being protected.
We want to feel like our children have every opportunity in the world to achieve their dreams if they work hard and are blessed with the right talents, and we want to know that we can speak up about things we don’t like, without reprisal. We want our nation to show a gentle hand when a gentle hand is needed, and an iron fist when someone threatens our way of life.
We want bad guys locked up, good guys to be treated fairly, and our protectors to be able to feed their families and live without shame. We want our veterans treated with dignity, our teachers to feel like they can make a difference and our doctors to have the best tools available to them to heal us or keep us healthy.
The framers of the Declaration of Independence set us on a path of rightenous. Let’s all take it.