04 July, Regionwide – MAINE, NEW HAMPSHIRE, VERMONT, MASSACHUSETTS, RHODE ISLAND, CONNECTICUT, NEW YORK and PENNSYLVANIA constitute a majority of the thirteen States comprising the United States of America at its birth. Shaking off the yoke of colony-hood had required these states to struggle – together against the British, apart between one another, and separately within themselves – to arrive at this day 244 years ago, when we told the world that we are “United” in freedom and opportunity.
The Declaration we pay homage to was, when written, a wild-eyed, revolutionary document that overthrew a perfectly functional global order. Tyranny – imposed by varying degrees of political indulgence and economic fairness, but tyranny nonetheless – was ubiquitous and unquestioned. The Declaration expressed an inconceivable hope for humanity. It still does in a world where tyranny remains the predominant form of governance.
The North Atlantic ports that provided our region’s original economic foundation, and the railroads that quickly conveyed that vibrancy across the continent, endure as the manifestation of that hope. One fundamental element of our progress has been the aspiration to judge a man on his merits, not of blindness to race, religion, and creed. Anyone could come here and make their fortune, and pretty much anyone bold enough to leave their place of birth to pursue their American Dream, realized it.
But our origins in this land are not equal. Some people were already here, some were brought against their will. Even after hundreds of years, the disparity hankers like a spiked switch a hundred miles back, that wasn’t on the map. Some significant aspects of our modern nation don’t square with promises made in the Declaration. Arguing that the train missed the switch is irrelevant; giving it the coal to back up a hundred miles and try harder is to double the anguish. We need to open up our own tracks in the right direction. “United” is our first name, after all.
Any of us who are proud to live in one of these eight states cannot absolve our dependence on those struggles to replace tyranny with freedom, and division with unity. Indeed, the struggles didn’t end with fireworks. For 14 more years, the states struggled with unity, finally ratifying the Constitution in 1789, which imposed its modest purpose in the very first sentence: To form a more perfect union. That remains the solemn obligation we hold towards those who have led and fought, those who risked all to find a new homeland. Our struggle is to bring along those who were never really given the choice.
I read a book recently. Nominally, it was about a life spent dallying with planes, trains, and estates. But really, it was a parable about a grotesque version of the American Dream. A person is born into infinite wealth, independent of earthly concerns. But, born into the very dream most people pursue, this person never gains the humility and compassion won in the waking pursuit. Obtuse to others’ capacity to dream, the lucky dreamer is alone in his dreamland, uninterested in waking, a human divorced from humanity. That is not an American aspiration.
God has blessed America . We always have struggled to live up to His blessing, and we must continue to strive to deserve it. It is not un-American to admit that we have work left to do.
Happy Independence Day.