American greatness is easy to grasp on Independence Day. Displays of fireworks watched among good company encourage nostalgia. You may think deeply of American roots on the 4th of July, but what is the country to you the other 364 days?
Independence Day is good for ritualizing the habit of looking back, seeing how far we’ve come, remembering what this whole grand experiment is about. But if it is the only time we look back, remember, and allow the knowledge to impact our daily life, this country is in trouble.
Political and cultural bickering is (almost) set aside for one day in order that patriotism may be shown, and then it is back in full force. The beauty of the American experiment is ignored in order to highlight its faults. And, vice versa, the horrors of our history are neglected in order to heap praise, forgetting that progress requires admitting, owning, and turning.
How would our political scene change if we approached politics with American roots firmly planted in our minds? Even as we acknowledge that our past is riddled with horrors, this country stands among the nations of the earth as uniquely marked by the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If our policymaking took root in this reality, what would life look like in America?
How about culture? What if we approached conversations about society with the deeply felt knowledge that we, along with our neighbors, are experiencing something that is unique on this planet? What if we talked about social issues from a place that acknowledges the bad while still embracing the good?
What is America to you, not just on the 4th of July, but 365 days a year? If it is an evil that must be conquered, one of the greatest experiments of human history has lost its impact on you. If it is relentlessly beautiful with no flaws, progress might not be made with you.
But, if it is a country that is beautiful and flawed and great and in need of repair all in one fell swoop, if you let our history and roots reside deeply in your political actions and comments, then you are well positioned to accomplish great things.
It is, after all, not the great American experiment only on Independence Day. We’ve come a long way. We still have much work to do in letting liberty and the pursuit of happiness ring through the land.