It's the 4th! Woo hoo. Happy Birthday, America. It is the birth anniversary of an idea, a concept. Believe it or not, the idea that all men and women (thanks to the Women's Right to vote) have the right to life, liberty and to pursue happiness was a bit of a revolutionary idea back then. Keep in mind back then nations were ruled primarily by kings, queens, paternal succession, sometimes maternal, and almost always in a non-democratic fashion. The Magna Carta was truly a giant leap for citizen rights, and the American Revolution was equally momentous in the arc of historic human governmental advancement. I'm sure you will also recall that the English 'Glorious Revolution' that brought on Parliamentary reforms limiting the monarchy wasn't even 100 years old when Jefferson and Company penned the Declaration of Independence. And the French Revolution, which pretty much did in the whole king/queen thing, didn't start until a decade after our own independence. And Swedish independence (those damn Scandinavians seem good at everything, don't they?) was pretty much concurrent with our own.
So we are 241 years old tomorrow. We've certainly had our ups and downs haven't we? How about that bunch of British Red-Coaters having the temerity to come into our capitol and burning it down back in the War of 1812? Our continued take-over and annexation of the West from Indian nations made the U.S. a continental nation, much to the chagrin of our Native Americans. Again, it was the thing to do back then if you could. Strong nations taking over the weak. There is, after all, tea, sugar and ivory to procure. Manifest Destiny and all that rot, chap, what what?
We would test our resolve and the meaning of U-N-I-O-N in the Civil War; an exercise in extreme death and cruelty on the battle field to secure either states rights or federalism. I'm not convinced it ever ended.
From there we fought two world wars successfully, ushered in the middle class and working unions to ensure safety and the end of abuses in the workplace. All the while we invented wonderful things for the world: the telegraph, the phone, radio, TV, the auto (OK, we didn't really do that but we made them faster on the assembly line), the plane, electric grids, baseball, football and basketball (that's a dubious one) The flush toilet and many other things that have made our lives easier. We even invented the machine that sliced bread (a guy from Davenport, Iowa as a matter of fact).
But what do we stand for? I got all this info from Wiki and Dr. Shepard back in school. Type in sliced bread and you get answers. Type in Parliament and you get answers. But when I typed in "What does America stand for", Wiki had no pages on that. Frankly, I don't know what we stand for anymore. We used to stand for the little guy, but we don't anymore. The little guy used to be part of the middle class, who went to work at the factory like his papa and his son after him and earned a decent living for the respective families. Globalization and cheaper wages have impacted the American manufacturing sector and shrunk our middle class. We used to have government that helped the needy in society - the penniless and the sick. We used to have a government that created and legislated. We used to have a Congress that represented the people.
When I was a kid we stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, had P.E., called our elders Mister and Missus, and learned how to write in cursive. And more often than not we were civil. Now go to the comments section of Facebook or online news reports about our presidents, our gay Americans, our soldiers, religion, political marchers or news articles and you will see a vile stream of ugly hate. Is this America, today? A nation in retreat? A nation in decline?
Maybe. Maybe not. What does America stand for? In a few days I'll post what I stand for. Maybe that's a start. Maybe we all need to take a moment from flipping that burger today to think about what we really do stand for. We as individuals and we as a collective called Americans. Why do we belief what we believe? Are you for a conservative supreme court? Why? Are you in the Resistance? Why? Do you want a strong military AND infrastructure AND tax reform? Can't have it all. It isn't enough to say what we are - we have to know why.
I propose a new American revolution. One with civility to our neighbors, tolerance for those who are different, compassion for those with less, to fight against indecency and abuse, a job for anyone who wants one, equality, justice in our courts, truth in government, protection of our natural resources and freedom of the press. I think that's some of what America stands for.
Take a good look at that flag you will see all over the place on this holiday weekend. The red represents the blood that has been shed by guys, like you and me, young and older, rich and poor from all over the nation. They fell at the Ardenne, in countless towns in France and sank with their ships in every ocean. They, no doubt, were scared and a long way from home in every war and every conflict. They put themselves on the line to keep that flag high and waving. They would give all they had and all they ever hoped for if they could have just one more hour with mom, their girlfriends, their kids. What would they think of us?
I worry about these things, not just because I think our president and government have views opposite my own, but because I think we have become, in the last couple decades, lazy, intolerant and casual citizens. Today lets stand up for what we believe America stands for. Today and everyday.
Or else it may be Happy Trails for us all.
Scheduling note: There will be no post tomorrow because of the Holiday. We'll be back Wednesday.