I want to wish everyone a happy Independence Day. I encourage all of my friends to think about what this holiday means. It is not (just) the day we eat BBQ and watch/pop fireworks. This is a day when we remember and celebrate the people that fought to be free from a government that sought to control them without asking for their input or thinking of their needs. This is a day we celebrate a journey that began over 200 years ago, but will never reach its end until we quit striving to continue that journey. The journey these freedom fighters began was one of national improvement.
The freedom fighters were not perfect, either in their actions or their morals. Many of them were slave-owners who had not made the moral connection that they had done worse to their slaves than their government had done to them, but they were at the beginning of this national journey. I encourage us not to look at history just with our practiced (and hopefully more enlightened) modern eyes, but to look at our forebears in the light of the world in which they lived. These men (and unsung women) were not perfect, but they were advancing towards improvement. Note that shortly after the establishment of the American nation, people began streaming here to improve their status. People would not have made the huge sacrifices it took to get here if it wasn't perceived as better than what they left behind.
Racism, sexism, and greed marred our history, but it marred the history of every other nation in the world. The United States was not the only nation beginning to make changes, but it was certainly the most spectacular early modern example. The imperfect men and women who founded our country began a journey towards betterment that they would not live to see the end of. We will not see the end of it either. Hopefully, history will see that we were imperfect but striving to improve ourselves individually and as a nation.
Our nation has fought in some wars where national or worldwide interests were at risk from outside forces. Some of these are where some of our greatest national honor was obtained, and some were where we lost national honor. That said, I don't find those to be the most important to our collective soul. The wars/battles fought within have gone the furthest in helping us along our national journey. The Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil War, the Sherman anti-trust act, the fight for women's suffrage, the Temperance movement resulting in Prohibition, the repeal of Prohibition, the civil rights movement, the war on drugs and so many other struggles represented forward and backward stuttering steps towards national betterment.
I encourage us to look at our history and see the generally forward movement that has been accomplished. I encourage us to never lose the urge to continue moving forward. I encourage us to continue to seek national improvement and continue to strive toward national unity. Look at your neighbor and try to see past the differences. Gender, race, religion, political leanings, job, economic status, etc. should only be parts of who we are. They should not be hard dividing lines destined to keep us forever distant from one another. They should be perspectives that help us look for different ways to come together.