Happy Birthday, America. We’ve been friends for my whole life, so I guess I can tell you that here in your 24th decade you’re looking a little haggard.
It must be painful for you. Here we are pledging to be “one nation…indivisible” and we seem to argue over absolutely everything, including the Bill of Rights. That First Amendment is a doozy and contains a whole lot of stuff including the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances.
So I have a grievance. The Declaration of Independence (your original birthday card) very specifically spells out the reasons why the United States of America was formed to begin with, to dissolve itself from the rule of a tyrant king for “cutting off trade with all parts of the world,” “depriving us in many cases of the benefit of trial by jury,” “made judges dependent on his will alone,” “combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution,” and “excited domestic insurrections amongst us,” just to name a few. Now we face those same threats internally and its more than a little disconcerting.
America, we have come a long way since 1776. We have liberated slaves who even at the time of your founding were considered to be personal property. We have granted women the full right of citizenship to vote and control their own destiny. We have invested in industry and science and education to make our people more knowledgeable and productive and healthy. We have integrated immigrants from all over the world into our broad culture so that we can share our economic prosperity and learn from one another. We have taken steps to protect your beautiful landscapes from sea to shining sea so that amber waves of grain grown by our vital farmers can feed us and purple mountains majesty can remain home to wildlife and the natural springs that provide our life-giving water.
Recently, we have turned our backs on much of that progress, America. Instead of welcoming immigrants who add to our economic growth we are turning them away. Instead of opening our arms to refugees who are legally seeking asylum from the ravages of crime and horror in their home countries we are ripping their children from their arms and deporting them with no plan to put families back together. Instead of building up our public school systems so that all children can get a solid foundational education we are working to build stronger doctrine-centered private systems. Instead of cleaning harmful chemicals from public water systems we are ignoring the plight of lead poisoning in one of our largest cities. Instead of focusing on renewable energy sources where science and industry have made great progress we are pushing for increased use of limited and declining natural resources. Instead of working to lift populations out of poverty through improved educations and economic opportunities we are criminalizing the poor. Instead of giving veterans and senior citizens the rights they have earned through service and longevity, we are reducing their benefits. I’m being honest here, America, so I have to say there are many days now when I barely recognize you.
If we are defined by the way we treat our least self-sufficient then we are taking enormous strides backwards as a nation. It could be argued that a people will earn the government it deserves. But, America, that’s not the promise you have always held for us. We have looked to your Declaration of Independence as a guiding beacon. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We can do better in these United States of America. Generations to come are depending on it.
My fellow Americans, please join me in the retrenchment of what it means to be a patriot. We can only serve our country by serving others. We can only become our best by serving our least. We have the knowledge and the power and the rights to make a difference, individually and collectively. We should not blindly pledge allegiance to a flag, but should deliberately renew the resolve set forth in the Declaration of Independence and use the full power and authority granted to each citizen under the Constitution of the United States.
America needs us. She’s looking pretty forlorn. Let’s give her a birthday makeover and get her pointed back in the right direction.