July 4th reminds us of the best and worst of American history. Many celebrate Independence Day and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. And there is much to be proud of as we remember the sacrifices of so many that keep freedom’s flag flying. Others consider the failure of the Founders and Framers to offer a clear road of Emancipation for the slaves, thus delaying justice for millions, costing our nation a horrible Civil War, the tragedy of Jim Crow, and the unfulfilled promises of the Civil Rights Movement. Add to this the almost 100% record of broken covenants and treaties between the USA and the indigenous Native American tribes and being suspicious of American ideals is understandable.
The USA is an experiment in virtue-based liberty and representative governance rooted in reverence of the Almighty, the equality of all people, and limitations on the power of government. But our history is a tapestry of tremendous and tortured narratives. We celebrate the Ellis Island Hospitality enshrined in the Statue of Liberty and forget the prejudice, racism, and exploitation of both slaves and immigrants. We rightly celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of our culture and forget the painful road toward prosperity for most workers.
What makes America truly great? First, we see that our first liberty, enshrined in the first 16 words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is complete freedom of conscience and religion for people of all faiths (or no faith) to live their lives and build their communities without government interference. Second, the promise of and potential for genuine access, equity, and opportunity for everyone. And third, our history of halting but continual progress toward justice.
Let’s celebrate heroes of the past and hopes for the future. Let’s feast in freedom and build a future so more can enjoy the fruits of freedom.