We’re this close to Independence Day, which technically is this Saturday but which, of course, in various ways, will be celebrated for at least a three-day weekend, assuming some of us haven’t already tried to get a head start. And all of this will happen despite, as someone pointed out to me the other day, that it doesn’t feel much like any Independence Day we’ve ever had. True that.I would offer that COVID-19 and the cracks and shortcomings of our healthcare system it has
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We’re this close to Independence Day, which technically is this Saturday but which, of course, in various ways, will be celebrated for at least a three-day weekend, assuming some of us haven’t already tried to get a head start. And all of this will happen despite, as someone pointed out to me the other day, that it doesn’t feel much like any Independence Day we’ve ever had. True that.
I would offer that COVID-19 and the cracks and shortcomings of our healthcare system it has revealed, to say nothing of the economic chaos and financial inequity the consequences of the pandemic have precipitated and exposed, to say nothing of our continued and steadfast refusal to confront our original sin, four centuries of racism, does indeed make this holiday different. But it could also make this celebration of one of the world’s most inspiring documents, our Declaration of Independence, a long-overdue moment of self-assessment and soul-searching while we map where we should be heading as a nation.
We’ve traded “e Pluribus Unum,” (from many, one) to “what’s mine is mine, but what’s yours is negotiable” even while promising one another over the next few days to think about those whose service in uniform makes what we call “the American Way of Life” possible for most, but certainly not all, of us.
There’s a line in the second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence, right after those self-evident truths, that sets us apart from every other nation; where we proclaim each of us has “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In a perfect world we should have devoted every day of the nearly next 254 years that followed to expanding the definition of whom exactly had those unalienable rights but we’ve gotten sidetracked on our journey from the streets of Philadelphia in the heat of the summer of 1776 to the cities and towns of all sizes seething often unhappily throughout our nation right now.
Quite frankly, unless and until we all share equally in those unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” we are fooling ourselves. We are the Shining City on the Hill, as Peggy Noonan once phrased it, for the rest of the world and from this nation’s birth, people have come from everywhere to live free, proud to be called an “American.”
We who have always lived in this society and enjoyed the protections that our Declaration of Independence promised and that our Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee sometimes are blinded by our own good fortune and fail to see those among us who have been marginalized, disenfranchised and deprived of what we’ve told one another is our birthright.
Freedom to be whomever we choose to be and the happiness and joyfulness as a result of that freedom are intended only for some but for all of us. Freedom cannot be reduced or diminished when shared but can only increase as more of us enjoy it a shared blessing. Always.
Happy Independence Day to each of us and for all of us as our inheritance as free people.
Bill Kenny, of Norwich, writes a weekly column about Norwich issues. His blog, Tilting at Windmills, can be accessed at NorwichBulletin.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.