As we celebrate this Fourth of July, it is a good time to pause and think. What ideas were the basis for this country's foundation? There are three that stand out above all. They were so important to us that we stamped them on our coinage. We carry them in our pocket every day, without really thinking about what they mean. Here they are:
Individual freedom is one of the core values of this country, going hand in hand with its brother concept, equality. Liberty is just that - the freedom to be generous or selfish, to succeed or to fail, to have or to have not. Liberty does not guarantee success, either spiritual, political, or financial. It just guarantees a shot at success - or, as Ben Franklin put it, "The Declaration of Independence only affirms the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it for yourself!"
E PLURIBUS UNUM
"Out of many, one." We are one nation with many faces, many voices, and many ideas. Sometimes in our political discourse we become so heated we want to brand our opposition as "the other" and assert that they are somehow anti-American because they embrace different ideas about what our country ought to be, or how it should be run. Nothing is more American than dissent; nothing is less American than trying to silence those whom you disagree with. Let the ideas flow!
IN GOD WE TRUST
While the debate may rage on as to whether our Founders were evangelical Christians or cool, intellectual Deists, the fact is that much of America's heritage is a religious heritage, particularly a Christian one. At its best, that has given us a sense of compassion and generosity which has led us to fight tyranny in every form, at its worst it sometimes makes us smug and self-righteous. But for good or ill, it is a part of who we are, and the slogan itself comes from the little known last verse of our national anthem - "Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, In God Is Our Trust!"
Have a Happy and Joyous Fourth of July. Celebrate all that is good about America, and instead of griping about what you don't like about our country, commit yourself to trying to make it better!