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Happy Birthday, America!

It was almost 250 years ago that the big kahunas (was Hawaii one of the original thirteen colonies?) in our country decided that, “Nope, we’ve had enough. No more bowing to a sovereign king. Here in this vast great land, the collective voice of the people will be sovereign.” And the founding fathers collectively directed Thomas Jefferson’s penmanship of those almost-holy words:

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.

Those words inspired a people to birth a nation; those words remain just as inspiring today as the task to grow a nation remains.

Every American, born or naturalized, holds the responsibility for as long as this republic shall survive: We have a debt to those who have gone before and those yet to come to preserve this nation and to grow this nation with the ongoing commitment to “We, the people.”

Yes, it is true that this nation had many flaws, has many flaws, and will find new flaws yet unknown. The flaws in our country were no inconsequential nuances. They were and are grievances and wrongs so deep that only a good and decent people committed to that sentence…read it again:

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.

Only a good and decent people committed to that purpose could hope to attempt to build a nation that could provide all within an opportunity for life, liberty and opportunity to pursue happiness. We are a nation that had to come to grips with the understanding that “all men” could not mean “all white men of European descent with property and title” but must mean “All People …” without regard to race, gender, and creed.

In 1861, the war to end slavery began in earnest.

It had begun when one tribe discovered they had superior physical skills to another in some unrecorded time of human development. Near three-quarters of one million combatants died in the years before Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Abraham Lincoln called the American Civil War the price paid for the sin of slavery. A 21st-century perspective shows those years as an ongoing blood-soaked battle against hatred, prejudice, and, yes, economic expediency that will never end as long as mankind harbors evil within his heart. Even today we would pray the notion of slavery in our country absurd, if it were not for the certain knowledge that this vile demon continues to thrive in the dark corners of our society; primarily among those consumed by poverty, ignorance, and substance abuse.

But do not, no, not ever, despair. The fight for freedom goes on. But I submit to you that the best hope for freedom for all peoples in all this world is this great American experiment in the rule by the people.

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence is just as profound as the first.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

So, what am I saying to you?  Let’s have a new Government?  No, not one bit. Let’s write and rewrite more laws?  Should we just make poverty and prejudice illegal by mandate?  No, I don’t think that will work. More than 200 years of laws ought to be good enough general guidance; 4000 if you go back to Moses and his tablets. Simple answers to complex problems and stupid solutions haven’t gotten us where we hope to be. But please, hear what I am saying: Do. Not. Despair.

We are the people of a great inheritance. Read it. Study it. Embrace it. Live it. Pass it on to a new generation.

On the 3rd of July, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg ended. Several months later, Abraham Lincoln commemorated that battle with his own soaring words of inspiration. They, of course, remain relevant today. I remind you of but a few of those words:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…

…It is rather for us, the living, to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I have long been of the mind that what is most needed in our country is not to change America but to change Americans. Sometime during the last 150 years, our national dialogue seems to have changed from “Shall not perish from this earth” to “What tax exemption can I get that benefits my group?”

For too long we have accepted disingenuous pontificating from our political leaders at all levels. I really can’t say if it is a matter of deception or delusion, but it was never acceptable and can no longer be tolerated by we, the people.

So on this 4th of July, have a great party.

Invite friends and family and fire up that fossil-fueled grill and enjoy some fatty hamburgers or ultra-processed hotdogs. Have a Coke or Pepsi, don’t skip the ice cream and channel John Paul Jones: “Damn the calories (for today)!  Full speed ahead!”

Then get up on Friday and fight the good fight. Sure, exercise and eat better, but search your heart and mind. Have you slipped into the party-line group think?   Stamp it out. Commit to unyielding honesty in your thoughts, words and deeds. This is America. It’s ours. Earn it every day. And speak up.

July 2024

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