A HOUSE DI­VIDED AGAINST IT­SELF CAN­NOT STAND

American Survival Guide - - LAST WORDS - BY BRIAN MOR­RIS

As we pre­pare for our an­nual In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions, it oc­curred to me that this year, more than most, we should take a mo­ment to re­flect on the rea­son we have this na­tional day of recog­ni­tion. At this time, we pay homage to the brave souls who fought so hard against over­whelm­ing odds to break free of the chains of servi­tude to a king whose power was not earned or even granted to him by “his” peo­ple but rather flowed through his an­ces­tors to him as part of a royal birthright.

We de­clared our in­de­pen­dence as a free and sov­er­eign na­tion—no longer sub­servient to a sin­gle per­son, royal fam­ily or for­eign coun­try, but rather to be gov­erned, as Abra­ham Lin­coln said al­most 100 years later, " … of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple, for the peo­ple … ."

As rev­o­lu­tion­ary and ex­em­plary as our con­sti­tu­tion was, it took some time and a num­ber of amend­ments to get it to where it is to­day. Rights and free­doms and other bits of fine-tuning were added with 27 amend­ments. Some took only a few months to pass, while one—the 27th—took more than 200 years to be rat­i­fied. (Is it sur­pris­ing that the 27th Amend­ment re­lates to when laws af­fect­ing Con­gres­sional salaries take ef­fect?)

On this day, we should be proud and hum­bled that other coun­tries have used our con­sti­tu­tion as a guide when they gained in­de­pen­dence and needed to con­struct a sim­i­lar doc­u­ment. Na­tions that pre­date ours have made less progress for their peo­ple over more time.

Even with the read­ily ap­par­ent suc­cess that the “Amer­i­can Ex­per­i­ment” has achieved, the path to where we are to­day has not been straight and level. There have been mis­steps, bar­ri­ers and de­lays, as with all great jour­neys, and there will al­ways be a need for Amer­i­cans to work to­gether on new and se­ri­ous chal­lenges that lit­ter the path into the fu­ture.

So, why is this In­de­pen­dence Day dif­fer­ent than most oth­ers? In my mind, this dif­fer­ence is sim­ply be­cause of the great de­gree of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal strife we see to­day, and that seems un­usual com­pared with the past. Whether it’s re­al­ity or per­cep­tion, the dis­cord in Amer­ica seems to in­crease daily and si­mul­ta­ne­ously stems from, and feeds, the wan­ton dis­re­gard of oth­ers’ rights—sim­ply be­cause they dis­agree with the opin­ions of an­other. There are so many points of con­tention among groups and in­di­vid­u­als who have a mul­ti­tude of per­spec­tives and agen­das, many of which are petty; and the di­ver­gent opin­ions are ex­pressed so vo­cif­er­ously and emo­tion­ally that it’s of­ten dif­fi­cult to find top­ics and causes we can agree on.

While we still have the right to dis­agree with each other, one might ex­pect more unity to come from a peo­ple who share and en­joy the rights and free­doms that were earned and pre­served for us and our de­scen­dants at such a great cost. With to­day’s fix­a­tion on in­di­vid­ual rights and the prece­dence of one’s own de­sires and opin­ions over the whole, we are called to re­mem­ber a pas­sage Lin­coln bor­rowed from the Bi­ble when he made his “House Di­vided” speech. Think­ing about this year’s In­de­pen­dence Day re­minds me, more than ever, that “a house di­vided against it­self can­not stand.”

Be­cause we are in­de­pen­dent of for­eign masters, the free­doms, rights and priv­i­leges we have could be lost by our own hand be­cause of our lost vi­sion as a na­tion, par­tic­u­larly of that sim­ple prin­ci­ple of ma­jor­ity rule. We see all too of­ten to­day that pub­lic pol­icy and po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses are be­ing driven by a very small, but vo­cal and me­dia-savvy, con­tin­gent of peo­ple who think the coun­try should be re­shaped to their de­sign. In ef­fect, to use the words of Walt Kelly, “We have met the en­emy, and he is us.”

On this In­de­pen­dence Day, let’s re­call the ded­i­ca­tion to the greater good that the found­ing fa­thers and their fol­low­ers shared and worked to­ward and find ways in which we can do the same to pre­serve the way of life that makes the United States of Amer­ica the ex­em­plary na­tion it is.

Then, we can fo­cus on the highly an­tic­i­pated trips to the beach, as well as back­yard cook­outs and get-to­geth­ers with fam­ily and friends.

Have a safe and happy In­de­pen­dence Day.

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