Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence.
It is unfortunate that Indepedence Day is often reduced to fireworks and barbeques.
America is a collection of humans facing an ideal. No person, and therefore group of people, is perfect. And we will never be perfect. But we establish ideals to guide us and act as guardrails for our behavior. Just because the humans within the system of ideals have stumbled along the way, doesn't mean the system is faulty. Those that are constantly judging the American system by the behavior of some of the participants seem short sighted to me. Complaining that Thomas Jefferson was a hypocrite for having written that all men are created equal and yet held slaves in a time when no other system existed seems to miss much of the nuance of the times.
Would they rather that he and the other founders not have made the statement at all, thereby lengthening the emancipation timeline? Or do they expect perfection from everyone at the end of their pointed finger while forgetting that they themselves may fall short of ideals from time to time? Dr. King, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are all imperfect progenitors of the American ideal. So are you and I. It is hard for me to imagine that those that think in this way will ever have a spiritual leader, mentor, or country to which they look up to since they will forever be fixated on the imperfections of those who aspire.
Most nations are formed by tribalism – association by ethnicity or race. In America the association is based on ideas. Look around and try to identify an American by race and you will quickly see the living example of America's motto, E pluribus unum – from many one. Research how cultures that respect familism prosper if you don't think this is huge.
In America, anyone can voluntarily join the country based on shared ideals. Where you come from does not matter. What matters is where you are headed.
What does an American look like?
The American founders established some ideals. Those ideals were good and they are still good to this day. Part of the American ideal says that every human being is precious irrespective of your origins. Tribalism is no longer the criteria for citizenship.
The founders asserted that every human being is created in God's image and therefore is infinitely precious. That their rights come from a creator not from the creation. That some other human is not the grantor of your rights.
This country created something new.
It is easy to forget the ideals or to believe they are something else. Many are busy twisting and bending the ideal into an ugly cousin of itself. Why not allow the ideal to stand? Can we celebrate the ideal while striving to better our fellow man?
Maybe this 'cup half empty' attitude comes as a result of birthright. We forget to teach the next generation about the ideal and how each and every one of us is responsible to lend a hand in making progress toward that ideal. Sometimes I wonder what this country would look like if US citizenship by birth was not allowed for anyone – that each of us had to return to our ethnic tribe and then apply for US citizenship. Would gratitude be more prevalent? Would we be better at imparting patriotism and the American story to the next generations? Would we be more willing to give than receive? Are those who grapple to get in more appreciative?
Do we look a gift horse in the mouth?
America was and is an aberration in the world. America can and does die for other's liberty like nobody else on this planet. America is unique and should be treated as a precious gift to humanity. Each and every American should express gratitude for the luck of being born into it.
America is bigger than you and it is bigger than me. Let's humble ourselves a bit in remembrance of all those that have participated in this idea that is America.
Let's not take for granted the extraordinary experiment that is the United States of America.