Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What the Fourth of July Means to Me

The Fourth of July is celebrated by giving us office drones the day off so that we can attend barbecues, parades, free concerts and fireworks in ridiculous heat. Flags are on display everywhere, flown and waved by people, many of whom love their country non-reflectively.

This holiday reminds me of what the founders of this country did, and what they could not do. They provided a form of government that enables us to live freely and to adapt to a changing world, but they could not make the adaptations themselves, or protect us from ourselves. I think of those founders, and their willingness to sacrifice their wealth and safety for ideals and principles. I wonder where such people are today, and why they aren't the ones leading this country, instead of those with narrow vision guided by self-interest.

I wonder what the founders would think of the United States in 2006. Would they be proud of the fruits of their labors? Would they be happy or shudder at the absence of slavery, the rights of women, and the many cultures and races that compose our citizenry? At how our elections and political parties operate, the estate tax, and the "rights" of corporations? Would they take issue with their supposed original intent as courts have interpreted it? Would they think that the government they created is viable with a population 100 times greater than it was in 1776? Would they approve of states with a 50-fold difference in population having equal senatorial representation, or the absence of voting representation for citizens of D.C.?*

In the current atmosphere of this country, this holiday reminds me of what the difference is between a patriot and a nationalist, and how many of our politicians are the latter while claiming to be the former. And I am reminded how valuable our freedoms are, and cannot understand those who would give them away so freely in the name of an abstract War on Terror.

In sum, the Fourth of July serves as a reminder how much I love this country, and why I'm afraid for it. Happy holiday!

* - Or would they fail to notice any of these things, because they'd be too busy staring at women in revealing clothing, playing with iPods and watching TV?