A Facebook friend, no doubt looking forward to July 4, recently asked: “Who are we as a country?”
Here’s my response:
Well, that is indeed the question, isn’t it? The Founders set up a system that (eventually, after a few tweaks and a couple of rough patches) made it possible for practically anyone to join in and be known as “American.” What unites us (or rather, what should be uniting us) is not genetics, or shared faith, or language, or even cultural heritage, but allegiance to, belief in, and support of a certain set of values. Justice, respect, and equity before the law are some of the values that are supposed to be in that package. Unfortunately, our history shows that we haven’t always done the best job of living up to those values. And our present situation shows that some of us are still quite willing to jettison or sabotage some of those values if there is money or power to be gained.
So, who are “we” as a country? A diverse collection of human beings – fallible, flawed, imperfect – looking to create something that isn’t finished yet, not by a long shot. Something that has never really existed before. What is it that we have been trying to create? A “more perfect union”, with established justice, domestic tranquility, and common defense, that promotes the general welfare and secures the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
Not a divided society of haves and have-nots, of different groups eyeing each other warily across increasingly broad chasms, of people in conflict at home and abroad. That wasn’t supposed to be the idea at all.