Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 230th America! Kisses!

It was 230 years ago today that our forefathers removed from our wrists the shackles of English tyrants and declared our independence to the world. With the benefit of being a nation founded by philosophers and thinkers, rather than of career politicians and monarchs, the great minds of those early days created the most successful and longest-running democratic experiment in the history of mankind.

Thirteen years after the Declaration of Independence went into effect, the electoral college unanimously elected George Washington to be the new nation's first president. Washington is invariably considered one of the three greatest presidents in history in every significant poll on great presidents (Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln are the others), and he is regarded as the "Father of our country."

Washington was a humble man upon whom greatness was thrust. He never wanted to be lauded for his many achieve- ments, but rather shunned adulation and wanted only to serve the just cause for which his countrymen fought. He proved himself time and again in battle, in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. When elected president, he waived his yearly salary since he was already wealthy. He stayed out of party politics, preferring to eschew party loyalties in favor of common sense.

In his famous farewell address, Washington urged the country to come together for American interests, and cease political partisanism. He also encouraged the country to remain out of foreign affairs, and concentrate on American interests.

And here is a line I find to be particularly topical:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Fast forward a couple centuries and enjoy the eloquent musings of another George W.

Yes, the founding fathers were rich white slaveowners, and yes the land was taken from those who occupied it first. But as far as political revolutions go, this world would (in my opinion) be far worse off without the United States' presence. For all our imperfections as a nation, we have always strived to protect the freedom of men and women to live as they wish, and of protecting with equality all people, regardless of race or social status. (We have not been fully successful in either of these, but we're trying.) But it is good to know that 230 years of progress and (mostly) good faith will not be torn asunder by 8 years of a nation losing its way. The pendulum always swings back, and over the many years of tribulations this country has endured, we will see it do so again. The tide rises, the tide ebbs.

But my hope for this country is that someday, we can all remember that even though we may believe in different things politically, and may have completely opposite viewpoints of the way the world works, we are all Americans. Though we have different accents and different religions, that does not need to divide us. And it's all right to be mad at this country, and criticize it, because dissent is one of the founding principles we need to acknowledge, and defend. Without dissent, we have unanimity, and uninimity behind an unjust cause or an unjust ruler (when we know it to be unjust) is just as bad as treason, because it threatens to slowly chip away at the foundation we were built on.

When we can look at a person we don't know, and give them the benefit of the doubt, since they are an American like we are, maybe we will finally bring to fruition the country that Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington envisioned.

I may be dead and gone when it does happen, but it's a beautiful dream to have. Happy Fourth of July to all.

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