Independence Day: July 4th. Wave the flag. Set off fireworks. Celebrate.
For many people, patriotism is easy. All it takes is being born in a country, something everyone accomplishes. Then, wow, what a great country. Wave the flag. Set off fireworks. Celebrate. USA, Albania, France, Australia: it doesn’t matter.
But Lincoln wisely said more than just a “new nation on this continent” was founded. He described it: “Conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” This was unique at a time of monarchies, theocracies, castes, feudalism, aristocracies, censorship and the like.
The Declaration of Independence did not claim sanction by divine guidance, but, reflecting the rationalism of the Founding Fathers, instead purposefully explained its basis and reasoning because, as it states, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
July 4th is a day for Americans to recall not only the long fight for independence which succeeded the declaration, but the revolutionary thoughts, ideals and goals of our forefathers who broke from engrained tradition.
It truly was a revolution in thought. Soon after, the French had their revolution, much along the same philosophic lines, and abolished the aristocracy, the accepted calendar, state religion, etc. It was a tumultuous time, much more than simply separating from England.
So I think it patriotic to demand more from my country, to earn my patriotic zeal, than just the accident of being born here. I think it appropriate each year to reflect upon what remains to be done to achieve political liberty and equality for all. Rather than slaver unconditional praise, I choose to exercise my political liberties to advocate for further progress of my country toward those goals.
The Founding Fathers would, I believe, expect much more than “My country, right or wrong.”
They would demand: “Right the wrong.”
Jed Somit is a resident of Kapa‘a.