Take Some Time for Reflection on the Fourth of July

Today we celebrate America’s independence.

We do so at a time in which American political discourse is as divisive as it has ever been. It’s not the only time that America has been fractured – we fought a Civil War, lest we not forget, and other eras have similarly been filled with strong political rhetoric from all sides – but these are the times we live in.

Memorial Day may be the day in which we honor those who died in battle, and Veterans Day may be the day in which we honor those who fought and lived to come home, but let’s not forget that our fight for freedom began with this day in 1776. It’s why we’ve fought for freedom ever since.

Whether you are liberal or conservative (or libertarian), whether you support are current president or not, just take a second between the brats, BBQ, and beers to remember that when the Declaration of Independence was signed, those who founded this nation were looking to create a country based upon certain freedoms – including the freedom to air your grievances or support of those in power.

Now, let’s not forget our little experiment in freedom didn’t cover everyone – slavery continued to exist for almost another century, and there’s the not-so-little matter of European settlers taking land that belonged to the Native Americans who were here first – but as flawed as this American experiment has been, we sit here in the year 2017 still united as a nation that was founded on the ideals in the Declaration of Independence and we remain bound by the Constitution. It hasn’t been easy to keep this nation together (freedom hasn’t always applied equally across our citizenry, even to this day), and as already noted, we once split over slavery.

But we didn’t. While racism and racist structures remained (Jim Crow, segregation, systemic racism), we did abolish slavery. One army fought to keep the nation together, and while the entire Union may not have been on board, we also fought to abolish slavery. Both goals were eventually achieved.

So remember that when you make jokes about America and freedom and when you settle down to watch fireworks. There’s a lot to criticize about America (we still have a long way to go to get to a point where everyone feels equal), but it’s worth taking a moment to remember that while the road has been rocky, this nation still stands upon the ideals on which it was founded.

There’s work to be done, but we can still be happy we’ve made it this far.

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