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Reasons For Optimism On This Year’s Pessimistic-Feeling Independence Day

Independence Day is a celebration of America, of our nation’s history and what it means to be part of this country. But here’s what it’s not:

  • It’s not a day to display our military might, to trot out tanks and fighter jets, in order to demonstrate our strength (the world is fully aware of what we’re capable of without that display);
  • Nor is it a day for political leaders to hijack in order to gain politically, or to feed into their ego some perverse and narcissistic sense of importance.

Independence Day is a time of reflection, of understanding what our country has stood for, and what it can stand, for in the years ahead. It’s about remembering what the promise of America really is: that, while our nation has been far from perfect, it has the capability to change for the better, as it has done at several points in our storied history.

Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

Unfortunately, there is a lot we must lament and reflect upon in order to ensure that promise lives on.

  • Thousands of migrants, desiring a better life by emigrating to our country as asylum seekers, remain detained in disgusting, deplorable, and psychologically damaging detention centers. It is no exaggeration to describe these places as concentration camps, as many already have done.
  • Political rights for citizens are under attack, particularly those for women. States are passing restrictive laws that limit their reproductive rights, for example, and some seem to believe they should be held responsible for incidents that are beyond their control if it harms a fetus inside their body.
  • Last month’s Pride celebrations demonstrated America’s shifting attitude toward acceptance for many in the LGBTQ community. But it also highlighted ways in which those individuals still face abuses, discrimination, and prejudice in this nation — including from their local and federal governments.
  • Bigotry for people of color continues to run rampant in this country. The repercussions from America’s original sin continue to haunt our present, and many individuals are a long way’s off from being able to judge a person for their character rather than their skin color.
  • And things seem dire for our democracy as well. Gerrymandered districts across the country are set to remain in place, for the time being, the result of a disgusting Supreme Court ruling from earlier this summer. The calls to abolish the Electoral College — which President Donald Trump once agreed with — are similarly far from being realized.

It can be hard, with so much wrong being self-evident, to think about what’s right with this country. But there are rays of hope.

One of the most enduring things about America is the fact that we tend to strive for ways to improve our nation rather than sliding backward. And when we do stall or slip in the wrong direction from time-to-time, that is typically remedied within one or two election cycles.

There’s no guarantee of that happening, of course, and this time is no different — the abuses and egregious actions of the present administration may become permanent in many instances. But we must be optimistic in the idea that they don’t have to be.

Americans still have the opportunity to change things for the better moving forward. We still can right the wrongs we have seen, over both the past two years as well as over the past 200.

The Declaration of Independence, which inspired not only our nation but countless others over the centuries since it was written, was penned by a man who himself was a slave owner. I take that symbolism very seriously. Our founders were far from being perfect individuals — they had flaws, to put it mildly, that should not be overlooked.

But they also saw the possibility for a great nation to be crafted from their actions, one that could change the course of global history.

We also are flawed, but similarly, we also have great potential. From the crises and difficulties we live in today, we have the opportunity to do many incredible things to make our nation better.

Let’s not squander this chance by becoming complacent or cynical — let’s instead rededicate ourselves to the ideals this nation was founded upon, the ideals that evolved after its founding, and the ideals we have yet to enshrine as being truly American.



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