“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.”
Since those eloquent words adopted 242 years ago today as the bedrock foundation of America’s Declaration of Independence, the United States has remained steadfastly true to its nation-defining goals.
It’s not always been easy or without pain, anger and bloodshed, but in those 2 1/2 centuries, the United States has worked consistently to slowly but surely expand its commitment to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness to an increasingly large segment of our increasingly diverse populace.
In that spirit of commitment and honor to the intricate workings of our Constitution and representative democracy, we encourage all to join in today’s daylong national birthday party. At parades, barbecues and fireworks exhibitions, all of us have good reason to show off our robust pride in country.
First and foremost, we should take time today to remember the freedoms that Independence Day embodies and how we as a nation achieved them.
We achieved them through hard-fought battles with British imperialists. We maintained them through adverse times of Civil War, world wars and terror wars. We continue to uphold them even amid the sometimes trying political and social climate in our country today.
Through it all, we’ve stood tall to nurture the freedoms bequeathed to us in the Declaration and U.S. Constitution.
But in the spirit of the freedom-broadening strides we’ve made as a nation, there still remains room to evolve closer toward that “more perfect union” that our Founding Fathers had envisioned.
TODAY’S TURBULENT TIMES
Take today’s troubled times, for example. Some Americans say they struggle to find much uplifting about the state of America’s democracy today. Some fear it’s on life support.
They can point to the 2018 ranking of the United States as a “flawed democracy” for the second year in a row by the Economist Intelligence Unit. That rating is based on each democracy’s score in five categories: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture.
That ranking reflects a political and social culture punctuated by stark diviseness and fears that the ideals adopted by the Second Continental Congress in 1776 are under attack. Some point to concerted efforts to dilute voter participation. Others argue that terrorist threats and acts, immigrant-bashing and resurgent racism are ripping away at some of our cherished freedoms.
While those trends are disheartening, one always must keep in mind these absolute truths about the nature of democratic governments and representative democracy: They are inherently messy and highly fluid.
Flash back, for example, to 50 years ago when some argued the United States had suffered a complete nervous breakdown. What with two horrific assassinations (the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy), violent opposition to the escalating Vietnam War, an increasingly volatile civil rights movement that vented its anger in deadly rioting in many U.S. cities, and increasing cynicism toward the quality of U.S. political leadership, some worried whether the quintessential fabric of American democracy could endure.
But endure it did. Just as it did when confronted with a host of other imperfections and flaws over the ages. Americans rose above them and, in the process, enriched our democracy.
Sir Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Great Britain, reminded the world of the imperfections common to democracy seven decades ago:
“Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect of all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.”
Yet, we are confident that a majority of Americans will continue to muster up healthy doses of vigilance and resilience that have so long characterized our spirit to defend, protect and expand the liberties we celebrate today.
Happy Independence Day to all.