The 4th of July comes round again at a time when faith in our country has been deeply shaken. We are questioning our most enduring institutions right down to the Constitution and Founding Fathers’ motives and wisdom, with some saying we need to scrap the whole thing and start over. Second American Revolution. Considering the angst, seems appropriate to paraphrase Winston Churchill: the US is the worst country ever built by humans—except for all the other ones.
Our country is flawed, of course. Though I’m convinced history will show we have been a force for much more good than evil, if we are committed to rising above the triggering of emotion, obsessive thought, special interest, and personal bias, we can occupy liminal space, the threshold between camps, and see clearly enough to praise and criticize as needed to make us better. Rising above personal triggers—that’s easier said. But fighting this interior revolution must happen first if we’re to wage an exterior one with any hope of leaving people better than found.
Ancient Jews understood their journey as a nation as the journey of a single person, that the macro mirrors and maps the micro, and here, our Declaration of Independence may help map our own interior journeys. The Declaration speaks of political bands that should exist only as long as they serve all parties, of self-evident truths of equality, and unalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. That people will suffer as long as they can before they take up the cause of fundamental change…as it should be. Revolutions make things much worse before better.
Jefferson is channeling Jesus who told us to count the cost before going all in, but until we’re willing to question everything and let go of all we say we believe, we’ll never see which “bands” holding us in place no longer serve us in experiencing our ultimate unalienable right: a love that changes everything.
Our flawed founding fathers did exactly this. Even as we question their flawed convictions, let’s not dismiss their journey, the process by which we must become convinced ourselves.