Today is the United States of America’s 242nd birthday. Much is not well on this occasion, but let’s take a moment on this day in particular to celebrate much that deserves our attention and offers us some reassurance.
For the first time since they began asking the question, a major poll found that there is not much of a majority of Americans that are proud to be Americans. Even among those who remain proud, a majority is “not proud of America as it stands today.”
Still, there is much to celebrate on this day. This is a democracy well into its third century, our Constitution the longest running such document in the world. There are days of late in which one wonders if that record will continue, but it still stands, and this is not the first time we wondered if it would hold.
Everyone taking the oath of office swears allegiance to and protection of the Constitution – not the president, not even the country, but the Constitution that makes us the country we strive to be.
- I remain marveled at how many Go Fund Metype initiatives I see all over the country, with people responding quickly and generously to help others, often “the least among us.”
- Every day thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, and first responders leap into the flames of combat and disaster to protect the rest of us from unimaginable horrors. They do so with little compensation and with real risks. Their families are equally remarkable in their steadfastness and courage.
- In a time wherein we seem eager to withdraw into our tribes, I see examples all the time of people going out of their way, often at some cost or risk, to help another, often a stranger.
- Congregations and community groups that never imagined doing so are becoming sanctuaries for undocumented aliens. In the face of brutal and inhuman actions, people feel called by their conscience, and they are answering the call.
- An unprecedented number of women, scientists, educators, and veterans are running for office throughout the country, at all levels of office. Many are young – some are seasoned. They seem, to a person, fired by commitment, not just to defeat someone, but to make things better for the people. Time may prove me wrong, but this has potential to be a wave unlike anything we have seen since the post-Watergate era.
- Many old-line evangelicals have twisted their movement beyond recognition to back policies and politicians unworthy of support. Perhaps the rest of us should thank them. Not only has this diminished the standing of their movement beyond measure, it has also shown many young evangelicals how bankrupt that movement is. The next generation is looking for new leadership and may form new movements that are more interested in principles than political alignments.
- In spite of all the issues before us, there is actually no shortage of patriotism, but more than ever, it comes in two forms. The traditional “I love America” patriotism is surely in evidence. But so, too, is an equally dedicated cohort that loves America’s promise, that finds its expression of patriotism in calling us to live up to our promise as the country founded on an idea. I am happy to count friends among both of these groups of patriots.
So, happy birthday, America. Time to get to work on year 243 – there is work to do.
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