In today’s politically polarized America, a day of independence is much needed. I just want to watch “House of Cards” or listen to “Hamilton” and not think about how they’re commentating on the current political climate. Speaking of climate, I’m not sure if the heavy air is from DC’s summer humidity or the political tension in Washington, DC. Either way, you could cut the air with a knife. Let’s just say I am relieved to wake up today in the nation’s capital, attend the parade on Constitution Avenue, visit the National Archives and read the Declaration of Independence, see the fireworks on the Potomac River, and give thanks for living in America.
On this July 4, we all care about our beloved nation that was founded 241 years ago. I’ve been reflecting on our divided country since January 20, the day of President Trump’s inauguration, and January 21, the day of the Women’s March on Washington. I attended both events, and I saw opposite sides of the political spectrum. There were several quotes I heard and thought of that I didn’t get to share back in January, but I hope still ring true this Independence Day.
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) said that political and presidential elections are “not a celebration of victory, but a celebration of democracy.” It is true that when we think of other countries and their current leaders, such as Jong-Un’s North Korea, Erdogan’s Turkey, or Assad’s Syria, it is hard not to be grateful that we live in a republic with democratic elections and freedom of speech for our representatives, our press, and ourselves.
Let this July 4 be “a celebration of democracy.”
As a nation of faith, it’s paramount that we recognize this sentiment from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: “with malice toward none, [and] with charity for all.” In that renowned speech, President Lincoln continued: “…with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Similar to President Lincoln’s appeal to bind up the nation’s wounds,” the prayer at President Trump’s Inauguration implored us to “bind and heal our wounds and divisions, and join our nation to your purpose.” This is something I pray for, as well.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all,” we can “bind up the nation’s wounds.”
Rather than trying to be a country we can never be, or no longer are, let us embrace the present and look forward, focusing on restoring our national unity and identity. A campaign slogan that both Democrat and Republican presidential candidates have used is “Let America Be America Again.” This is the title of one of my favorite poems, written in 1935 by Langston Hughes. “Let America Be America Again” is about how the American dream never existed for the lower-class American. I first memorized this poem for my fourth-grade recitation contest. I can’t relate to Hughes, who wrote the poem living as an African-American in the 1930s, but reciting his poem helped me learn his message and story. It doesn’t hurt to walk in someone else’s shoes and see through their eyes.
Although Hughes writes about the plight of immigrants and minorities not achieving the freedoms and equalities they hoped to achieve, this message still resonates today, over 80 years later. There is still so much to strive for: from racial inequality; to women’s fights for equal pay and paid maternity leave; to religious opposition to same-sex marriage; to the opioid crisis and unemployment in rural America; to the refugee crisis; to poor health care and veterans’ care. But rather than being discouraged by the road ahead, Americans should take comfort in their shared trials and quests for equality, and lift each other up in their respective endeavors. As Hughes writes so eloquently in the excerpts from his poem below, this is everyone’s America — and we can reflect on the vision of our founders and the values they want us to emulate today.
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s,
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
© Rissponsible Living, 2017