A Work in Progress
As we approach the 230th anniversary of the birth of America, we reflect on exactly what it is that makes America a great nation. And as we do, many of us find no reason to be proud. We see a nation whose history is scarred by slavery, intolerance and injustice. We see a nation divided by contentious issues such as abortion, immigration and war. We see elected representatives who are corrupted by power and money. We see a growing divide between the average American and the extremely wealthy (not because the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, but the rich are getting richer much faster than the rest of us). And we see a citizenry that seems unwilling to live up to its obligations and is only interested in the lowest forms of entertainment. A citizenry that is pacified by bread and circuses.
But what makes America great is not her wealth and prosperity, and certainly not her politicians. It is not what she was or what she is, but what she will become. America was founded on an ideal: that all men are created equal with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We have not always been able to live up to that ideal. At times, we have failed miserably. But our history alone is not what makes America great. Unlike any other nation on earth, America has a goal.
We seek to create a polity, rule by the many for the benefit of all. Political Science, the study of how to create that polity, is an American invention. Many mistakenly believe that democracy is our goal. It is not. Democracy is a means to the end, not the end itself. Democracy does not always make us proud. It divides us. It creates enemies out of fellow citizens. But, a vigorous debate for the future of our nation is the best way to achieve our goal. And the goal is what is important.
The biggest problem we face today is not too much debate, but too little. Politics is no longer the genuine and earnest contest to improve America. It is merely an industry focused only on the expansion of profit. More and more, Americans see their nation as simply a place to live, not the embodiment of a philosophy that promises liberty to all mankind.
But, nothing is perfect. That is why it is so important to never lose sight of our goal, and never become content with our past accomplishments or current comfort. American history is filled with examples of intolerance and injustice, but it is also a story of the triumph of right over wrong and freedom over oppression. It is a story that continues.
When we celebrate Independence Day, we celebrate these triumphs and triumphs that are yet to come. We reaffirm our commitment to the goal of achieving a society in which the rights of all people are respected and protected. Let us not become wistful over our failures, but rather let us rejoice in the founding principle of our republic and overcome those failures as we create a more perfect union.