Monday, June 29, 2015

Of Human Events

If the Fourth of July happens and there are no elections coming, will anyone be there to notice?

Yes, I know, Independence Day is about our great nation and something bigger than local elections. But, holy mackerel, the last election put a lot of pressure on all those local parades and picnics. Whatever will they look like without scads of electeds and wannabes and supporters in matching t-shirts?

What will the people who turn out be celebrating?

I was raised to believe that the freedom we have in the United States is the freedom which allows many kinds of people, many kinds of ideas, many kinds of religion. In fact, if I was raised with any notion of American exceptionalism it was this: that we were a great experiment in the world, allowing such a beautiful variety of citizens. Conversely, it was clear that when our country did not provide equal freedoms for all that we had failed.

So, for me, the events of this week have been an affirmation of that great experiment. Although we will always be human, and, therefore, fallible, our Constitution and the rule of law allow us to fix our mistakes and move forward. This quote from Thomas Jefferson, fixed in stone in the Jefferson Memorial, has been making the rounds on the internet this week.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

The Founders were pretty cool dudes, you know?

What will you do in Columbia/Howard County to celebrate the Fourth of July? I just might re-watch 1776 with my family. And I continue on my quest to find the best spot for watching the fireworks. But no matter how I celebrate, this thought will be on my mind: we really need to do a better job teaching Civics in this country.

After all, shouldn't we know why we are celebrating?




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