In 2014, I wrote an article about patriotism and division. Ironically, it seems like that same article could be written today – 7 years later. Going into the 4th of July weekend, it’s a good reminder that we’re still celebrating Freedom. Here’s my article again, adapted for today:
I love America. And I cherish our many freedoms.
But this 4th of July carries with it a special challenge. The celebration of our independence comes against a background of growing division and divisiveness. We are a nation torn and deeply divided by partisan politics
Leaders like John Kennedy could unify our nation by affirming, “Both Republicans and Democrats want to do what is right for America” — are those days gone? Is acknowledging the good intentions and integrity of the “other side” tantamount to partisan treason? Have elected leaders seeking short-term gain through the politics of division — and a 24 hour news media hungry for ratings — lowered the bar on mutual respect and civility? Fanning the flames of paranoia and distrust, putting political ambitions, power, arrogance and greed ahead of humility and respect derails the kind of “constructive conversations” that bring us closer together, educate us and make us a stronger.
We, the American people, are ultimately responsible for deciding our future. By allowing differences to grow into chasms, or settling for division, we negate the unifying power and potential of civil discourse, deliberation and compromise. Self-destructively digging ourselves into the deep, dark hole of disunity will make it increasingly difficult to move forward as a community, and as a nation.
This 4th of July, let us create opportunities for a shared patriotism. Being patriotic is a way of life that begins with how we treat one another.
We are a nation in need of democracy-friendly patriotism woven into a code of civility that allows us to work beside even those with whom we disagree. Let our love of country be affirmed by a willingness and ability to reach across the aisle with mutual respect, rather than contempt, regain trust and confidence in the fruits of hard-fought deliberations and decisions (even if our side sometimes “loses”). Let us aspire to be a participatory democracy in which all concerned Americans are “patriots.”
How we express our love of America, what political party we belong to and where we go to worship (including the canyons and cliffs above Torrey Pines Beach) are all intimate elements of who we are. They represent the diversity that is America.
On July 4th, 1776, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and a few of their buddies rendered a historic declaration stipulating that “all men are created equal, and endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Their Declaration of Independence set in motion an experiment called democracy that would depend upon its citizens to build bridges of understanding peace and justice across the divides that threaten to separate us.
This 4th of July, we would all be wise to rededicate ourselves to rediscovering the hallowed (common) ground on which to build a better America.