Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July 2010

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays.  It's a time to step back from the usual partisan sniping and count our blessings for being a part of a truly amazing country, whether we achieved that through birth or naturalization.  Let's take a look at why our country is still the one that most of the world looks up to:

First, our Constitution....

As much as we argue over the meaning of this article or that amendment we take this astounding document for granted so much that sometimes we think that the world lives under it.  In much of the world, whatever foundation of law they go by springboard's off the idea that government grants rights and be happy for what you've got.  Our Founders set about setting up our Constitution from a different tack - we were born with the rights we have and therefore the government is restricted so they may not infringe on those rights.  In other words, the Constitution set up for us a constitutionally-restricted democratic republic designed to protect rights and not grant them.

Let's take one of our most treasured and basic rights protected by the Constitution:  freedom of speech.  We Americans take this for granted so much that sometimes we'll look at something going on in another country and criticize it on the basis of freedom of speech.  Well, those countries don't protect speech like we do.  If you are a resident of Canada or the UK for example, you can be fined and imprisoned for something called "hate speech."  If we lived under that, Rev. "God Hates Fags!" Phelps, Louis Farrakhan, Glenn Beck and others as well as some of us from time to time would all be in jail right now.  As someone said once: Freedom of Speech doesn't mean that we only protect speech we like, it was put in place to protect speech we absolutely hate.

Our diversity

Some of our friends on the right absolutely detest that word but it is one of America's greatest strengths.  Americans come in and from many colors and backgrounds.  There are certain bedrock ideas that we share as Americans and we do so by also celebrating where we came from as well.  The idea that we can do that in peace is the amazing part.  Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Muslims and similar seemingly competing Americans live sometimes right next door to each other and there is no street warfare over it here unlike other countries. We are part "melting pot" and part mosaic:  Melting pot in that we all share American goals and ideals on a personal level - we all want to provide for ourselves and our families and keep them safe.  Mosaic in that we are a country made up of bits and pieces of differences that combined make up a beautiful picture.

Lastly for now,

We aren't done yet

America at its founding was called a "great experiment" in democracy and we're all still trying to perfect it.  As I do my political thing online and otherwise, one thing that strikes me is our patriotism.  We all love our country and want it to be even better than it already is.  Where the rhetorical battle comes into play is how we define "better" and the means to get there.  We've only come to blows over it once with the Civil War - something, despite the words from some, we are in little danger of repeating.

Have your barbecues, watch some sports and fireworks tonight - today is, after all, a birthday party.  We have a lot to celebrate too, but please keep in mind the words of a Vietnamese woman I talked with during my Navy days who sat me right down and told me this:  "Don't you DARE take what you've got in America for granted!"

No comments: