To all my American readers, happy Fourth of July! To all my international readers, good morning!
The Fourth of July is the quintessentially American holiday, the day we celebrate the initial publication of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. As dates for such a celebration go, it's a little arbitrary, because there were lots of events surrounding our independence from Great Britain that might have been selected, but if you've got to pick a single date, July 4th is a good one. It's in the middle of summer, the weather is usually good, and it's a great chance for a break from routine during that long stretch between Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day at the beginning of September - the traditional beginning and end of the summer season here in the U.S
But what does the Fourth of July mean, other than an excuse for picnics, massive fireworks shows, and patriotically-themed sales at every store?
For one thing, it offers a good opportunity to reflect on this country and on what it means to be an American.
Our image as a nation has taken somewhat of a beating in the world since the end of World War II. Most recently, we've lost much of our standing as the result of the ham-handed and inept actions of the current administration, although it's always been fashionable in other nations to blame the United States for every problem of the world as a convenient way of deflecting responsibility at home. But ask yourself: if we're so terrible, why do millions of people each year try - both legally and illegally - to come here? Why aren't Saudi Arabia, Burma, China, and Venezuela (to name a few) having bitterly divisive national arguments about controlling waves of illegal immigration to their countries?
Can it be because the United States - the Great Satan - offers them something no other nation on earth can? Is it because they can come here and speak their minds, enjoy economic and political opportunities limited only by their own willingness to work, worship God as they choose without fear of a brutal and repressive religious police, or live in a place where the rule of law protects them from fear of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment?
It's fashionable to blame the United States for everything bad. If it weren't for us, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela would be just another crackpot idiot everyone ignores, and the Islamists would have to find someone else to blame for their centuries of moral, ethical, and economic stagnation. But the tides of people voting with their feet ought to tell you something - no matter what our failings as a nation, we're still the destination of choice for people wanting a better life.
On this Fourth of July, many things are wrong in America. We're mired in an unnecessary and costly war that has squandered much of the good will we enjoyed after the brutal attacks of 9/11. An administration tone-deaf to common sense and slavishly devoted to conservative ideologies of questionable merit chips steadily away at our rights in the name of "national security." Hordes of immigrants unwilling to obey the law, aided by those driven by economic interests or misguided ideas of social responsibility, flood our borders and change the very nature of our society. But in spite of all that, it's worth remembering that almost any other country in the world would probably have collapsed under pressures like these - but America is still here, still strong, and still the last, best hope for those around the world whose hope is dim.
Happy Fourth of July. Think about what it means to be an American, and what your duties and repsonsibilities as a citizen of this great nation are. Vote. Get involved. Obey the law. Do your part to keep the United States of America, with all its faults, the greatest nation on earth.
Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.