Don’t Celebrate America, Celebrate Americans

In my newspaper column this week I wrote about Independence Day not as something more than a celebration of nationalism but a celebration of personal independence.

The history of the American Revolution often is seen through the lens of only international politics. Our infant nation, then a loose confederacy of colonies, ending its colonial relationship with Great Britain and established something entirely new.

But the Declaration of Independence was more than just an indictment of the British crown. And it did more than just sow the seeds of a new nation state.

It also is a call to embrace independence as something inherently personal.

In fact, that beloved document’s most famous words have nothing to do with governments, and everything to do with recognizing the independence of the individual.

America is a great country, no doubt, but what makes America a great country is that it was founded upon certain notions about the sovereignty of the individual.

At the time our founding fathers declared independence most other countries were organized around some form of monarchy or autocracy, with the nation state formed to serve the interests of a ruling family or group.

In America the government is organized around the idea that we the people are fundamentally free, and the purpose of government is to protect and facilitate that freedom.

Our country hasn’t been perfect at pursuing that ideal, but on the whole we’ve done a pretty good job.

Things are good in America. That can get lost sometimes amid the mudslinging politics and sensational media reporting. But we need to remember why they’re good.

It’s not because big, expansive government gives us things. It’s we are a people generally free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness in our own way.

The measure of our success in the future will always be the degree to which that statement is true.

I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday.