Independence Day seems a fitting time to take stock of how we’re doing as a nation.
It’s hard not to wonder what would have happened if the cast of characters we have sent to Washington to lead us today had been present in Philadelphia in July of 1776.
Surely, they never would have agreed on the language of the Declaration of Independence and America never would have been born.
They would still be arguing about which truths were self-evident, whether the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness included abortion rights or gay marriage rights, and whether the 27 enumerated charges against the King of England should be expanded to include his failure to provide universal health care.
We may not be suffering today the “injuries and usurpations” of an “absolute tyranny,” although there are some people who feel that way, but we are enduring an era of reckless political gridlock where preserving the ideological purity of the left and right has taken precedence over the public good.
I don’t know about you, but what’s going on in Washington and in Sacramento seems un-American to me.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed about nearly everything. Even when they did agree on something like “all men are created equal,” they reserved the right to argue later about what they meant by that phrase.
The same was true of all 55 men who signed the Declaration of Independence and put their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line to end the despotic rule of the King of England.
They weren’t mad as hell and ready to go to war to overthrow the king because of his failure to cap spending or his protection of subsidies for giant oil companies.
Their justification for taking such drastic action was a long list of grievances that weren’t resolved despite many years of efforts.
That is what makes it so hard to understand why so many Democrats and Republicans are ready to engage in a political civil war, no matter how much harm they cause.
The Fourth of July provides a time for all of us to take a few minutes to reflect on what America is all about, as it was defined 235 years ago.
The Founding Fathers asserted that the role of government was to secure the basic rights of the people by “laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
My own political philosophy doesn’t go any deeper than that — a fundamentalist view of America based on nothing more complicated than the belief that I have a right to be me, just as you have a right to be you and the government is there to keep things in some kind of balance when our values and interests collide.
According to the Declaration of Independence, “whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.”
We don’t need a revolution to achieve that. All we have to do is stop letting them divide us by false ideologies and phony principles.
We have lost our way and forgotten who we are, where we are and what is going on.
These are dangerous times around the world, an era of enormous change economically, technologically and politically. We cannot afford to be a nation divided any longer or the consequences will be severe.
So when you throw another hot dog on the grill and pop open another can of beer, think for at least a split second about whether you want to be left alone to enjoy the life you want, or whether you want to continue this self-destructive fight over abstract ideas that don’t solve anybody’s problems.
RON KAYE can be reached at email@example.com. Share your thoughts and stories with him.