“The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution, a miracle; their example, the hope of Liberty throughout the world.”
-President James Madison
As we reflect on the 240th birthday of the United States, I stand in awe of her glory, wonder, and blessings. I marvel at her capacity to adapt and overcome. I am grateful for her tenacity, her diligence, and longevity. America is frequently described as a beacon of light to the the rest of the world; as she should be. Let us not pretend that the journey has been easy, or happenstance.
The Founders penned documents that contemporary writers could only dream of. They were laying the groundwork for an entire nation, with the hopes that it coulf survive forever. They poured their blood, sweat, tears, intellect, backgrounds, biases, and raw emotions into the foundation. 240 years ago they collectively gave birth to a nation in the world’s proverbial “NICU”, with no assurance of survival. As young folks, many of us are familiar with what it feels like to leave home. We leave for college, or the military, or a job. We get an apartment or a house of our own for the first time, and we venture out. Most of the time, it’s done with the blessing of the parent. Imagine, as a Founding Father, attempting this separation without the blessing of the parent-country, with lives lost and blood spilled, all in order to gain an independence filled with unknowns. We’re not just talking about whether we can afford Ramen noodles or Campbell’s soup, folks.
We’re talking about the forming of a nation and a system of government; a sustainable one, at that.
This form of government was founded on documents that have withstood the tests of time. They are tested daily. They are tested in a judicial system that is also a product of the same Founders. They are tested yearly, with elections at all different levels of government, with the fundamental belief that the people can affect real change with a secure vote. These tests come at local levels, and state ones, all operating under a federal government with massive responsibilities of its own. This work is done, time after time, without anyone throwing their hands up and leaving (at least not since the late 1800s). This collective belief in fundamental values and truths that are “self-evident” is strong enough to bind 50 states, with numerous counties and cities together into one (sometimes debatably) functional operation. The ideal is so powerful that we all wake up each day as Americans, without ever having to worry about what that entails. We don’t worry about the British coming, or the South seceding. We don’t question our freedoms of speech, or religion, or our right to due process. These ideas are baked into our cakes. That can be a wonderful thing, and a dangerous thing.
Let us not lose sight of the miracle we have inherited. We take too much for granted. We coast on autopilot most days, uninhibited by the possibility that all of this could be lost. We glance over the paper or the Internet, without an appreciation for the freedom of the press. We speak our minds, without a fear of “thought police.” Nobody tries to enslave us, or take our property, or force us to be royal subjects of a kingdom far away. We thrive under the freedoms of our Founding Fathers without a true appreciation for the battle it took to gain them, and the effort it took to ensure that they would last this long.
As our fourth president, James Madison (and one of my personal favorite Founders) stated:
We are a wonder, a miracle, and an example to the entire world. We have survived wars, both foreign and domestic. We have survived enemies who’ve attempted to bring us down. We have survived ever-changing political parties, and misguided politicians. We have survived policies that tested our Constitution and our resolve. We have survived unspeakable failures and regrettable mistakes. We have survived. All because 240 years ago, a group of principled believers put their lives on the line, and their beliefs on paper, and all these decades later, we are still the most awe-inspiring nation in the world.
Have a wonderful Independence Day. God bless the United States of America.