In a normal year, we should be celebrating July 4 together.
This is not a normal year. The lead up to this year’s has been saturated with violence and looting. It did not start that way; it began with demonstrations and protests based on legitimate grievances. It quickly evolved into needless violence against the people’s property and that of innocent businesses and property owners.
On July 4, 1776, a group of representatives from 13 separate and diverse colonies agreed to create a nation. They stated the grievances as to why they were banding together to oppose continued British rule. At no point did anyone believe they were perfect or saints. They, like you and I, had a variety of flaws as all humans have. In the almost 250 years since that time, our nation has grown in spurts and stops. As the world has changed, so has the way we see each other and our world; that which was once acceptable often is no longer.
We must not allow our 20/20 hindsight to blind us to the good in those that created our government. Many of our early presidents were slave owners, yet they each offered our nation much.
George Washington is recognized as the general that led the Colonial Army and served as our first president who set the standard of no more than two terms.
Thomas Jefferson, best known as the author of the Declaration of Independence, also grew our nation with the Louisiana Purchase.
George Mason and James Madison gave rise to our Bill of Rights. The basic standard of what was off limits for the various levels of government to regulate.
James Monroe gave us the Monroe Doctrine thus limiting European domination of South and Central America.
Slavery was an ugly part of our new nation; it was one of the ignoble things that was brought from the old world. For over three thousand years of recorded history, we know that slavery was part of many civilizations, particularly around the Mediterranean Sea. The last legal slavery in the world ended in Saudi Arabia in 1962. Yet worldwide it is estimated that between 21 and 46 million are held in bondage today. Some, such as our own U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, for political reasons would have you believe that America invented slavery
Measuring by old yardsticks
Beyond hindsight is the mistake of measuring today by bygone standards. A perfect example is George Washington’s false teeth. By today’s standard, who would believe that it made any sense to carve false teeth out of wood, but that was the standard of that period.
Likewise, who could have foreseen 150 years ago that instead of using money we would pay for things with checks and now with debit cards? The automobile long ago replaced the horse and buggy.
Similarly, the time clock and the three-point line changed basketball.
Most every facade of life and understanding has changed.
Sadly, despite the gains that have been made, some have found that there is wealth and opportunity to be achieved by creating and maintaining strife between various groups. Many in politics have won elections and power by using their fellow citizens; making people believe that without their thumb on the scales of government one won’t get ahead. Nothing could be further from the truth. That thumb sadly only convinces people that they have less value and, therefore, lower expectations for themselves.
We should all be focused on educating all young people. We should all be role models for our children, grandchildren and every young person that we come across in life.
I end with a quote from President Ronald Reagan who so vividly etched in my imagination as he was leaving office:
“In my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors, and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.”