A Brief Reflection on A Better Way to Think about the 4th
Every July 4 we have a replay of the same opposing dramas. Some of us celebrate everything American. Others find it a time of anger and frustration over how we fall short as a nation.
I would like to suggest that those two groups might have more in common than they realize.
A lot of us follow what could be considered a third choice, and in this choice, I think we have the makings of greater national unity. I have always celebrated what this country has accomplished and how far we have come in so many ways. But at the same time, occasions like the 4thof July offer us the challenge of reflecting on how far we have to go in many areas.
To acknowledge our shortcomings is NOT unpatriotic. In fact, it is the opposite. Sometimes (a lot, lately), I am disappointed, angry, even ashamed of some of what constitutes America today.
But I feel that way only because I am certain it does not have to be so. I despair because I know we have the capacity to be better. We have the ability to live up to the promise of the grand experiment that is America.
If I thought it was hopeless, I would not care. But I believe that is not the case. I expect more than that of us. People who take a knee at a ballgame, who protest in rallies, and who do other things that at first glance could anger some of us are actually doing a very American thing. They are challenging us to live up to our promise, to live our ideals. They are not condemning so much as they are calling us out.
If you think this country has no potential, no growth left in it, and is essentially evil at its heart, you and I don’t have much to talk about. If you think “my country, right or wrong,” or that to criticize is to be harmful, we don’t have much to talk about either. Both groups, in my view, are wrong.
So if I see you on the 4th next year and you want to celebrate America AND criticize America, come on down and let me buy you a beer. We have much to discuss, much to learn from each other, and work to do. To me, this country is all about remarkable vision and possibility, about powerful history, and about the most woeful shortfalls imaginable. All of that is us. We celebrate the good, acknowledge the bad, and get on with building America.
See you next Summer.
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