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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Dependence Day

As we celebrate America’s independence this weekend it seems fitting that we should remember the enormous sacrifice of life and the courage required of those who fought to free what would become the united states from a repressive regime. Amidst the fireworks, ill attended patriotic pageants and festivals that celebrate the foundation of our country, and the saccharin comments of jostling politicians eager to claim patriotic endorsement—the events that led to our bitter divorce, and the struggles between and among the foundling states and their leaders are barely remembered. It was not an easy birth, this country of ours. And our foundational documents, those that resulted from the tortured negotiations of our forefathers reflect the deep divisions that troubled our entry into this world.

To be sure one can see the long line of revolutionary spirits whose words and ideas inflamed the framers of our constitution and declaration of our independence. These were not retiring souls or meek minds. They were people of conviction, prepared to give everything they possessed, their lives if necessary, to secure what we now take so much for granted. Every act in which they engaged was treasonous—and they knew that theirs was not an insurrection played out as theater, not a revolt to maintain power by force but a real and desperate act of faith in the idea of a nation that represented principles worth dying for.

None of that is what I see when I look at our country today. Patriotism has become jingoism, a tinny nationalism that pretends fealty to the ideals on which we were founded without comprehension of their meaning. The Constitution over which our founders labored knowing it imperfect, but trusting in the wisdom of their successors to amend and improve according to their wisdom, has become a cudgel to be wielded by a partisan Congress and Supreme Court. The separation of religion and government for which so many paid a dear price has become a heresy to be voided by a power hungry, theocratic movement that takes pride in celebrating the diminishment of secular rights. And the government founded by and for the people has become hostage to a cesspool of fundraising obstructionists committed to defeating their opponents at any price.

If we recognize anything this 4th of July it should be our perverse dependence , on political bribery, legislative stalemate, vitriol and bile spouted from the mouths of politicians of every stripe—whipped up to inflame and distract attention from the real challenges our country faces. What our forefathers fought for we casually dispose of through indifference. Our rhetoric is beyond uncivil, it is disparaging, demeaning and despicable and what makes it far worse is the example made by those who hold office or seek to do so. Should not the litmus test for anyone seeking office be their acknowledgement of our differences, and their equal regard for those of opposing views with whom they must fashion reasoned compromise in the interests of furthering our fragile union. That is precisely what the patriots who forged our union did, setting aside their deepest divides to create an enduring future.

I cannot celebrate this day; the America before us is unworthy of such. I can only honor the memory of those long dead who gave everything for the possibility of a republic, a united states, a country that would stand for the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, a nation in which all men and women are created equal, and one that places the unhindered rights and freedoms of its citizens above all else. That is what this day should be about, that is true independence.

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