Independence Day Reflections, 2015 Edition
Independence Day is America’s time to remember why a ‘body politic’ came into being on our shores. Patriotism is unfashionable these days, and there is a long-running ideological hostility to the notion that anything is special about America, her history or institutions. Too often, the obvious and acknowledged flaws in the American story become the central narrative of the story, excluding or denying the undoubted good that grew, and continues to grow, out of the American experience.
The minority of the original colonists who decided that the ‘rights of Englishmen’ were worth fighting for were not the first to do so. The ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 had ended all arguments on British soil about ‘the divine right of kings,’ and the franchise was more widely held in its’ aftermath than virtually anywhere on Earth at that time. Before that, earlier generations had, after much struggle, preserved and passed on to their posterity the ancient freedom of the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danes who emerged from the forests of Germania to settle in the ruins of Roman power in England. We recently celebrated the 800th anniversary of Magna Charta, the earliest written guarantee of those ‘ancient rights of Englishmen’ on record. Others, such as William Wallace, fought English tyranny to win freedom, and many of their descendants were found in the ranks of the Continental Army.
The march toward ‘a more perfect Union’ has been long and painful, marked by reverses, defeats and intense struggle, but it has inspired peoples around the world to emulate us, and to flee tyranny for our shores. That process continues today; unlike the Berlin Wall, which was designed to keep people from leaving the Communist Bloc, we have debates about how to deal with the flood of people who want to come here.
Our best Independence day tribute to America’s past and promise is to be active participants in public life, shunning apathy and negativity for strenuous efforts on behalf of the commonweal.