Wednesday, June 30, 2010

History and Hope: Celebrating America

For seven years I have commented on current events, waxed philosophical about creative and disturbing trends and tried to be a faithful "messenger to the thoughtful." As we celebrate America's 234th birthday, we are watching the erosion of ideals and institutions that have held our experiment in liberty together. I will continue to try to move the conversation from anger to action, from subjective feelings to principled thinking and from collectivist control to personal freedom.

Today, however, let's take a moment to celebrate. Historical reflection is not mind-numbing nostalgia. Looking back can help us look ahead. Seeing the depravity and dignity of previous generations can inspire and warn us about our own. Here are some reasons to light the sparklers and ignite the fireworks over the ocean.

We still live is the freest land in the world, with open space and opportunities found nowhere else.

We are a generous people, who, in spite of our own environmental challenges, lead the world in care for other nations.

We are still living in the shadow of the Greatest Generation who spent their teen and young adult years battling the Great Depression, storming the Normandy beaches and surviving the Bataan Death March. This generation witnessed the Holocaust and Hiroshima and still built the most prosperous land in history, marched for civil and voting rights and bequeathed a belief in the future.

We are the land of Lincoln. We are capable of repentance and transformation, of challenging injustice and changing structures when needed.

We are the land of Washington. We know intuitively that a free people must be reverent and virtuous, humble and sacrificial, ready to serve posterity over their personal passions.

We are the land of Christian and Enlightened thinkers who pioneered total freedom of conscience and created a context for people of all faiths or none to live peaceably with their deepest differences.

We are also the land of William Jennings Bryan and Dorothy Day. One was a progressive Democratic candidate for President three times and a fundamentalist Christian (who says traditional faith and social conscience cannot be woven together?). The other was a Catholic lay leader who spent her lifetime working for the poor and laboring populations and refusing to accept the economic or social status quo.

We are the land of Rabbi Abraham Heschel and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. They marched together for Civil Rights and left speeches and writings that remain as fresh as they day they were uttered or written.

We are the land of The Williamsburg Charter, a celebration of two centuries of freedom of conscience. This Charter is signed by Coretta Scott King and Phyllis Schafly. Elie Weisel and Norman Lear's signatures are next to bishops, intellectuals, politicians and business leaders who all know that religious liberty is the first freedom.

We are the land that represents hope for a world where liberty is unknown and violence plagues people of faith and justice.

Yes, i could comment on the legacy of slavery, our continental conquests and our many mistakes. But today we need to thank God for our land, humbly beseech His mercy for our many failures, leave our computers and go eat with our neighbors and serve those who cannot return the favor.

"America is great because she is good." May we live up to the praises of Alexis de Tocqueville, circa 1831. We have reason to celebrate and in our rejoicing reconsecrate ourselves to our Founder's vision.

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