D. E. Ray
Independence Day is coming around for the 238th time, and it is possibly a good time for Americans of all stripes to remember what that holiday is all about.
In that hot, sweaty room in a steepled building in Philadelphia (which was not, by the way, a church), a group of seditious radicals decided to put their names to a document that declared they were no longer part of the British Empire.
They didn’t do that just because they were ornery. They didn’t do it for personal profit. They did it because they and their friends and neighbors had been wronged – by their own countrymen.
If you haven’t read the Declaration of Independence, you should. You will see that it is a complaint about the denial of civil rights to people, who because of some superficial difference from others in the country, were denied equal treatment under the law. Many of the complaints that they made would be more than just a little familiar to us today.
They complained that the king refused to give his assent to laws, or to allow his governors to pass laws of importance (we call this ‘gridlock’ when referring to our modern political situation). They complained that the immigration system was a mess, and that they needed a simple way for people to legally immigrate because they needed skilled workers from overseas. They complained that judges were not allowed to be independent, because they relied on the king for pay, and that there were too many bureaucrats.
They said that those enforcing the laws held themselves above the law, and were brutal in their enforcement of those laws.
The complaints against the British Crown included allegations that they interfered with trade, taxed the Americans on things they never agreed to be taxed on, and did not strive to see justice done.
How many times have we heard similar complaints in recent years? How often do we see some particular group crying out that they are not represented by the government that they live under? That police are brutal toward them, and that they get no justice in the courts?
Ours is most definitely not yet a perfect union. And yet, we strive continuously to that state of “a more perfect union”. America is, always has been and always will be a partial recognition that we have far to go – and continuing to climb that hill rather than giving up.
Many are now arguing over whether we have recently made great strides toward that more perfect union, or are going down dangerous roads from which we will never recover.
That is irrelevant.
We are Americans. So long as we can look at each other and realize that, and can treat each other as fellow Americans, this nation continuously grows stronger, better, more perfect.
Today, we remember our Independence, which means that we should be slave to no person, call no man “master”, and stand with the strength that comes from being American. At the same time, I would hope that we remember our dependence – on each other. America is great not because of one person, but because of all Americans.
The original motto of the United States of America, chosen by many of those same people that declared independence in Congress in 1776, was E Pluribus Unam or “From Many, One”. We are one, indivisible country, that is inextricably the same as the people that make it up. America is neither greater nor lesser than the sum of its parts. America is us.
Coming with that is a requirement that we see our countrymen treated as well as we are, to be equal under the law, to be strong and free. For they are America just as we are, and if they are treated poorly, them America is treated poorly.
And despite the familiarity of the complaints of our Founding Fathers, their times are not the same as ours. We are much more equal than they were, are more likely to be served by our government than harmed by it, are safer from brutality and injustice. Our struggle for a more perfect union must not stop, for it will never be over, but we are far more perfect a union now than we were. We recognize each other as being worth fair and equal treatment under the law, the enjoyment of the same civil rights, and equal representation. Because we are each one of the many.
Because we are Americans.