By Dale Martin
July 1, 2022
Trivia question: Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
This weekend marks the Fourth of July celebration of American independence, an event that annually highlights the separation and establishment of the United States of American.
This is a somewhat rare holiday in that we get to celebrate the commonality of this nation: its principles and its people. Most other holidays often serve to highlight the wonderful diversity among us: ethnicity, religion, service, and lifestyle. On Monday, though, we all get to bask in the glow of evening fireworks as Americans. In this time of continuing political and cultural turmoil, let us enjoy one day of our togetherness.
The politicians, parties, and politics will continue to roil this nation for the next several months as the calendar marches to Election Day. Even then, after the November elections, sadly, the divisiveness will not cease, but likely be exacerbated as the politicians (of both of the two major parties) elected to lead this country into its future spend an inordinate amount of resources looking backward. As we struggle locally to craft a long-range vision for our community, our national leaders appear to be struggling with presenting a long-range vision for our nation.
A remarkable document to review and contemplate is President Washington’s Farewell Address, which followed his decision to remove himself from further service to the nation and to inspire and guide future generations. In my opinion, his words lend further credence to the brilliance of our nation’s Founding Fathers. I apologize for the lengthy selection from his address, which first appeared in print on September 19, 1796, but this portion, written over 225 years ago, is remarkably foreboding of the current political climate (my note: with unabashed blame heaped on both parties).
“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.
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.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”
The machinations of both political parties are not healthy or conducive to the future of this great nation. A blatant example of the quest for party prevalence is the continuing existence of the U.S. Senate filibuster. To watch highlights of representatives of both parties on one-hand, when in the minority declare the sanctity of this established parliamentary procedure, but when in the majority, argue vociferously for its abolition. My thoughts are that since neither party likes it, the filibuster must be good for the country as a whole. The “most deliberative body in the world” should be forced to work together for the common good. Numerous other examples of party hypocrisy can be cited.”
Another founding document didn’t declare the United States to be perfect, but indicated the desire to form a “more” perfect union. We have been shaped by the actions and visions of past generations, and when current conditions require a national self-examination of our past, so be it, but it is an overwhelming distraction to attempt to “correct” the past; instead, envision the future. That is our American strength and destiny. Please again celebrate (safely) our togetherness as Americans.
Trivia answer: At the bottom.