During this July 4th week, we will hear paeans of praise (richly deserved) for the selfless women and men who sacrificed on the fields of battle for our freedom. We will also encounter loud protestors angry at "King George's" policies in Iraq. We will barbeque a variety of foods and enjoy summer with family and friends. We will also observe disquieting events in North Korea and Iran. We will thank God and the Founders for our nation, even as we look for solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
The greatness of America can be found in these very divergent feelings and thoughts. It is possible to swell with pride when the Flag is raised and forcefully oppose current policies. The freedoms enshrined in our Constitution call us to intelligent patriotism. America is not about the dehumanizing ideologies of Left and Right that ravaged the 20th century. We are not about blood, race and soil. Our values and virtues are richer, more trancendent, and call forth virtue, not blind obedience, from each citizen.
The United States of America is the noblest experiment in political freedom in human history. During our two centuries of nationhood, we have offered the world an example of liberty. The first freedom - conscience and religion - is our greatest gift to humanity and to our own religious communities. All other freedoms derive from this basic one - and we are still striving to live up to the aspirations of our First Principles.
It took a Civil War to humanize millions living among us. It took a World War to let women vote. Another World War united with peaceful religious protest finally allowed millions access to our national bounty.
This gradual and painful march forward was made possible because most citizens - native born or newly received - shared similar values regardong God, family and country. But in the last 50 years this consensus (not unanimity) has eroded and been displaced by narcissism and solipcism that threatens the very freedom we enjoy.
The generation that endured the dust bowl and the sands of Iwo Jima has given way to two generations of self-absorbed and self-destructive citizens who do not understant the virtues necessary for freedom.
The way forward is not blind, visceral patriotism that ignores our faults. Neither can we redefine family, morality and society and expect to enjoy real liberty. We must find a third way - just like our Founders. They understood that liberty rested upon responsible individuals. We must reaffirm our personal responsibility for the welfare of our nation and stop blaming the very people we elect! At the same time, there are no "good old days" that we need to reify.
Let's be intelligent patriots. Let's love our flag, our land, and our fellow citizens. Let's also keep striving to live up to the ideals of our Founders and never rest until all enjoy the blessings of liberty.