Independence Day Thoughts on the State of the Country

Independence Day Thoughts on the State of the Country

Goods this close by to Independence Day, which is officially Thursday, but of course in different ways, will be celebrated over at least a three day weekend, assuming some of us don’t already have a head start. I don’t want to sound like a scold (but I’m good at it), but I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve shared in previous years as we begin our celebrations.

Many of us will be cooking raw meat on hot stones, drinking malt and barley drinks, playing whiffle ball in the backyard, or just taking it easy. I believe that even those who gave their lives in the wars fought for, in, and by this country would have no problem flipping a hamburger, draining a cold one, or pitching an inning or two and calling it a day.

In a country where more and more people identify politically as either red (Republican) or blue (Democrat) only, while the other side is always suspect, this holiday can be a much-needed reminder that 248 years ago, patriots saw themselves as red, white, and blue.

As we celebrate one of the world’s most inspiring documents, our Declaration of Independence, we might also reflect on the direction we should be heading as a nation.

‘E Pluribus Unum’ swapped for a lesser option

We have traded “e Pluribus Unum” (from many to one) for “what’s mine is mine, but what’s yours is negotiable,” while pledging to remember in the days ahead those who serve in uniform and make possible what we call “the American way of life” for many of us, but not for all.

There is a line in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, right after those self-evident truths, that sets us apart from all other nations. In it, we declare that each of us “has certain unalienable Rights, that among these are the rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In an ideal world, we should have spent every day of the next 248 years expanding the definition of who, exactly, had those inalienable rights. But along the way, we’ve been diverted, from the streets of Philadelphia in the summer heat of 1776 to the cities and towns of all sizes across the country today.

Frankly, unless and until we all share equally in those inalienable rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” we are lying to ourselves. We are the Shining City on the Hill, as Peggy Noonan once put it, to the rest of the world, and since the birth of this nation, people from all over have come to live freely, proud to be called “American.”

We who have always lived in this society and enjoyed the protections promised by our Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights are sometimes blinded by our own good fortune and fail to see that those below us have been marginalized, dispossessed, and robbed of that which we have told each other is our birthright.

Freedom to be who we want to be, while recognizing the happiness, joy, and security that comes from that freedom, is not just for some, but for all of us. Freedom is not a pie that gets smaller when it is shared. It gets bigger when more of us enjoy its blessings. Always.

A Happy Independence Day to all of us, and to all of us as a legacy of ours as free people.

Bill Kenny, from Norwich, writes a weekly column on Norwich issues. His blog, Tilting at Windmills, can be found at