The Fourth of July. Independence Day. The day the United States of America (USA) was born. A day signifying the results of the War of Independence, when the original colonies severed ties with Britain and declared themselves a new, self-governing country. A day people died for, giving this nation the chance to succeed. A country people have died to protect ever since. And why? Because despite the many mistakes, tragedies and terrible mis-steps the USA has made since its forming, it still offers freedoms no other country does. And it has a Constitution like no other legal framework in existence.
The USA is far from perfect. No country is. No country has existed without conflict, internal and external. The USA engaged in slavery, a horrifying practice. But the USA also fought a blood-filled Civil War to end slavery. Some people act like slavery began and ended here. It didn’t. The Slave Trade dates back millennia and continues in some parts of the world. They just call it “human trafficking” now.
What has made the USA so appealing to people around the world has been two-fold: the American Dream and the fact that it is considered a “melting pot,” where anyone is welcome. The American Dream is simple: With enough hard work, persistence, and enthusiasm, people can become who they want to be. Whether that means starting a business, becoming an athlete or any kind of professional, it is possible. Many people of all races and ethnicities have achieved that. Some have become famous or even celebrities. Not everyone has become wealthy and some have lost their fame and/or fortunes, but the opportunity was there.
I hear a lot of people downplay or even disparage the American Dream (which I will call The Dream from now on) and I don’t understand it. They call it a lie or only for the privileged. And some people act like race automatically prevents people from achieving The Dream. If that is true, please explain Oprah Winfrey to me. And then explain Morgan Freeman, Benicio Del Toro, Jennifer Lopez, Shazad Latif, John Cho, Steven Yeun, the late Chadwick Boseman and equally successful actors, not to mention a huge list of athletes, business owners and beyond. The Dream is still possible. That doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles, sometimes even oneself, but obstacles can be overcome. Even during a pandemic.
I see so much division these days in the USA, mostly along political lines, racial lines or both. I see people disrespecting the US flag or the National Anthem. I see people promoting what is being dubbed the “Black National Anthem” (“Lift Every Voice And Sing,” which is a beautiful song) in the place of the National Anthem.
Despite what people may think and other people’s considerable efforts, the USA is NOT two nations divided by color or race. We don’t have to love everything about the country or its past, but we can respect that we are one nation. We can agree to disagree and we can also have honest dialogue when we do disagree. We can listen to both sides of an argument and not become violent. We can believe in people in general. And support each other as one nation.
Political divisions will come and go. Trends will come and go. Cultures do change over time, putting some old ways to rest and embracing some new ways. That is life.
What doesn’t change is the circle of life itself: Birth, growth, learning, faith (in something), love, the need for family, aging, and death. These are the things that tie us all together, regardless of where we were born, what the color of our skin is, what our culture is or what we choose to believe.
This is what makes us human beings.
We have a right to exist. We deserve a basic level of respect just for existing. And we are ALL biologically similar.
So on this Fourth of July, instead of focusing on over-hyped rhetoric about our supposed differences, I suggest that we focus on our similarities.
We can all get along. We just have to want to try.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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