Saturday, June 25, 2011

A More Perfect Union

The Fourth of July is coming up soon. And despite the differences we have, on that day we come together and celebrate our independence. Over 230 years ago, several brave men, sent the King of England one of the best breakup letters ever written. 

About a decade later, a central government was born when the Constitution superseded the Articles of Confederation that had been implemented after the United States had won its independence. And it started with the words We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,...” And to me the last part is key. “A more perfect Union.” The men that drafted up the Constitution knew that what they were creating wasn't perfect. But it was better, “more perfect”, than what they'd had before.

In fact, what they had cobbled together was such a mess that it took several changes before they could get States to sign on. The first ten changes or Amendments, significantly improved things. But it still did nothing about slavery, and left “Indians” (native Americans) as much less than second class citizens.

But as the years have passed, more changes have occurred. For the most part making things better. The system works to make things become “more perfect”. Though sometimes working in fits and starts, and even a step backwards now and then, on average things are better now than they were in the past.

This country wasn't founded in some “Golden Age” 230 some odd years ago. It was founded in the belief that a golden age was ours to build. And building it we are. Slavery was abolished, and while racism still exists, it has been pushed out of polite society. Things aren't perfect, but they have gotten better. Women have the right to vote, and overt misogyny is looked on with shock. There remain groups that are not afforded all the same rights the rest of us have, but progress is being made.

While July Fourth is generally celebrated for the rights we have gained, we shouldn't forget that we have also gained duties. I have been called for jury duty several times, and have without a doubt done my share of complaining about it. But when I'm called I go. (I've actually been selected to be on a jury twice, and they were both pretty bad experiences. But when I'm called again, I'll go.) And we all complain about our taxes, but given the return we get, police and fire protection, roads and other infrastructure, plus parks and education, it seems like I'm getting a lot for my money.

So while I'm enjoying the festivities on July Fourth, I'll be happy with how my money was spent. And while I think that The Star-Spangled Banner is a wonderful song, I'm going to be listening for “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie. But while the song says that “This land was made for you and me.” I'll be thinking that “this land was made by you and me.” And we're not done yet.

So while we're celebrating, think of how much progress has been made, and look around for something that you can do to make the country better for all of us. There's still work to be done.

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