Yesterday was our country's birthday – Independence Day – the 4th of July. Mama A and I had a great day together kicking it all off with a mind-clearing and life-affirming hike in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.
We're proud Americans, B, and although we've been labeled Gen Xers and the "me" generation (are we really any more selfish than other generations?), we embrace our rights, freedoms and civil liberties as personally responsible Americans and are grateful.
Sadly those civil liberties have been put to the test in the 21st century in the endless wake of 9/11 (and as can only be explained in cartoons). It's important to understand how America came to be, where it's gone and where we're going.
I'm in the middle of reading 1776 and I hope someday for you to read it, to understand the origins of our country without Disneyfication or censorship. Some of the same tyrannous elements our founding fathers (and mothers and children) declared independence from the British, we've dealt with of late from our own government.
However, that's why will live in democracy; this is a presidential election year and we have the power to elect one another president. I hope the next administration can put the "we" back in we the people. And that as "we the people" – we have a responsibility as well to ensure we remain thriving and free democracy. We may not always get along, and we don't, but we are the power behind the curtain; we can be the unifiers and the healers. No matter who reviles us around the world, there are just as many who look to America with hope and clamor for our alien shore.
Along those lines I read a great piece in our local Santa Cruz Sentinel yesterday by Wallace Baine about the importance Independence Day and the values of our founding fathers:
Still, as far as 18th-century elites go, these were pretty enlightened dudes. And that means all of us "from the treasurer of the Daughters of the American Revolution to the newly green-carded Korean business owner" benefit every day from the audacious gamble these cats made back in 1776. By throwing off monarchy, declaring religious freedom and enshrining that phrase "All men are created equal" in the new nation's first charter, these dead white guys on your money set in motion a dynamic that would, in time, destroy their own privilege. And they knew that's what they were doing.
Though the Founders were united in their determination for independence, that was about all that united them. They were a volatile lot, those Founders. They all nursed their resentments of each other. Hamilton and Jefferson detested each other. The priggish Adams looked down on the licentious Ben Franklin. They were not diverse in a demographic sense, but as personalities and ideologues, they were as different as they could be. They brawled and argued and pursued political dirty tricks against each other with zest. They were bound by their American-ness, and almost nothing more.
That presents the rest of us with a pretty good model on how to live together, don't you think? We too often lament how divided this country is, but the Founders showed us the paradoxical nature of a functioning democracy, united and divided at the same time.
Good advice, don't you think, B?
You and I, we reject these narrow attitudes
We add to each other, like a coral reef
Building bridges on the ocean floor
Reaching for the alien shore
For you and me -- We hold these truths to be self-evident
For you and me -- We'd elect each other president
For you and me -- We might agree
But that's just us
Reaching for the alien shore…