Friday, July 03, 2015

Happy Fourth Of July

Some people are saying America isn't so great. What are we celebrating? I suppose you could say that from any direction. Doesn't it always seem like something important has been lost when time passes? Nostalgia is a temptation for great nations, and great peoples, who perhaps have grown weary of testing their principles, and themselves.

A weary people grows tired of testing principles, and a people without virtue grows tired of employing them.

Maybe we are that people. But we can be so much more. I read about a guy who jumped in a lake to save a 4-year-old from drowning. He was paralyzed in the process, and then he lost his life. That kind of selflessness, that's America.

What would you say to the friends and family of the beloved dead in Charleston? True forgiveness is not unique to us, but it's as American as apple pie. That's hero stuff right there.

Maybe some of us will need to learn that process is important, that there are hidden costs to pursuing one thing above all else, at least a thing that isn't big enough (or good enough) to allow other good things within it.

There are genuinely intolerant people here, and they can mess up a good thing for everybody. Pay them no mind. One great thing our Founders gave us was gridlock. No, seriously. There might come a time when passions could run a little high, even among people of good will. There is nothing like frustration to make us slow down, maybe even to listen to one another. Thank the Founders for that.

I think back to the night President Obama won the election the first time. The euphoria was unreal. No matter what else I might say about the president--"in over his head" might be the gentlest thing I'd say--that night was the best of America. I remember the First Kids standing there, and the First Lady, and feeling like I would never have words to describe this moment. All Oprah could do was cry. I don't blame her. How great a country is this? A black woman can get out of poverty coming from nothing, and become a billionaire. And, by the way, there's nothing more American than giving stuff away, and generously, at that. Some time this week, Chris Rock pointed out that his kids have never known a moment when little black kids were not running around the White House. They think it's perfectly normal. Well, it is, in America. The Founders may not have known the greatness of their own principles, but they are great, nonetheless.

 The next time you're tempted to think about all the bad things, and even the bad people you think are messing it up, think of the man who saved that kid, or the soldier who fell on a grenade, so the parents of his brothers-in-arms wouldn't be the ones holding the folded flag.

Remember Flight 93? They fought and died, just so our leaders would not be harmed. We understand better than most: At the end of the day, it's better to mock a president than to bury one.

This 4th of July, have a grilled something or other, and remember that dreams grow wild here, to paraphrase Phil Vassar. Not by sheer luck, but ultimately because they belong to people with thankful and generous hearts.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody.

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