By Dale Martin
July 3, 2020
Nearly 250 years ago, by today’s standards, an obscenely politically incorrect group of rich white men did, by the standards of those days, an obscenely politically incorrect action: at the risk of their lives and fortunes, they completely severed ties with the most powerful nation on Earth. They codified their anger and aspirations into what has become one of the most revered documents in history: the Declaration of Independence. Tomorrow, we celebrate Independence Day.
I hope that everyone takes pause to celebrate the tumultuous events of the American Revolution (1775-1783) that set history in motion and gave rise to an infant nation. The rebellious infectiousness of the eighteenth century Americans is part of our bloodline and I expect that it always will be.
It is perhaps best stated by Bill Murray in Stripes: “We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts!”
This amalgamation of wretched refuse struggled to gain its national legs as a toddler throughout the nineteenth century. The nation was a shy pre-teen as the nineteenth century opened, hesitant to join the “adult table” on the world stage where long-simmering “family feuds” boiled over.
The challenges of mid-adolescence were followed by a growth spurt that created the Arsenal of Democracy and defeated tyrants around the world. Then, that brash and bold adolescent quickly matured and became a world leader: generous and innovative.
The United States rebuilt the economies of our vanquished enemies. Our nation cured diseases and walked on the Moon. We built highways and cities.
As a nation, we have blemishes, we have our torments, but like no other nation, we seek to overcome those challenges. Sometimes those challenges simply fade with the passage of time; at other times, it requires more vigorous and forceful action. Both responses can be appropriate.
We are again in a tumultuous time, but wholly different from the winter at Valley Forge or the barefoot marches through swamps and snow. We all have the unseen foe in the virus, but many others have visible “enemies” in those that look, speak, love, or act differently. The fact that we believe and act as if they truly are “enemies” belies our mutt bloodline, our “manginess.”
I am undeniably and unashamedly supportive about the ideals of this nation. I still believe the audacious words crafted centuries ago have great meaning today. We are not perfect. Another revered document, the United States Constitution, acknowledges that: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves…” We will not cease to honor that commitment.
The millions of immigrants every year seeking the blessings and opportunities is a testament to that commitment. The hundreds of thousands of annual armed forces volunteer recruits is a pledge to that commitment.
I urge everyone to set aside the anger and the hatred that has so divided us for too long. If those feelings can be set aside for one day, then a second day, some day, may be possible. “United we stand, divided we fall,” like the Declaration of Independence, was an early American call to action. How will we answer that same call in this century?
Tomorrow is the day to celebrate that commitment. Tomorrow is “Mutt Appreciation Day”- let’s celebrate our differences through the bond of our commonality as Americans. Without the spectacular fireworks displays, it may be appropriate to take a quiet reflective moment to celebrate: how can you share the goodness and ideals of this nation with others?
God bless America and all of her peoples. Stay safe and healthy this holiday weekend.