Is America Great?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness…..” (The Declaration of Independence)
There is probably nothing more patriotic for us Americans than this first Declaration which started our journey as a people and as a country. Some of our founding fathers were religious and were fleeing from prejudice and persecution, whether it was a religious or social prejudice. They understood the importance of love, tolerance and equality for all men in our country – versus hate, prejudice and division. This is what made America great – seeing and treating people as their equal and their own. It’s just as vital today.
For a truth to be self evident, it does not need proof. “All men (and women ) are created equal“ does not mean anyone is of less value because of ethnicity, creed or even financial status. We are all men or women (self-evident) – we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is what our forefathers fought for. This is etched into our American minds by our fathers, teachers and leaders. After all, we are a country of opportunity for anyone who wants to work hard and live by these principles. That is what makes America great.
Is America great now? Since returning to the US after 40 years living abroad, I can see changes to what was there in my first 20 years. Institutions have changed, governments have come and gone, but in reality the people are the same. Why? Because we have these self-evident truths to live by. How we live according to these ‘truths’ is the important part if we want to pass on our ‘America the great’ to our children and children’s children. It is living a life of love for all, understanding their way of life, their problems and the way we need each other.
It is helping people when they need help. That isn’t always easy as it sometimes means sacrifice -- as we have seen in the recent hurricanes in Houston, Tx and Florida . Our government needed to step in because of the overwhelming need for aid, but the real sacrifices came from many who were working on the streets to help those so desperately in need right away. It was the ones and twos who came to help even if they themselves were also in need .
The other great document we Americans hold dear is the Constitution. The Preamble goes:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
“We the people” means you and me looking out for one another. It means sacrifice when there are disputes or needs where we can offer assistance. It doesn’t mention government here but implies we the people must guard and guide how our country develops and acts.
The rest of the Constitution lays out how this is to be done through federal and local government, judicial systems and social institutions. But doesn’t the Preamble imply that we have an inner sense (conscience ) that can guide us individually? Would that be applied to the example of neighbor helping neighbor in the hurricane destruction earlier this year? We must have an inner sense of what is right in each one of us – whether it is natural or taught. It is this sense of right or wrong in each person which can make a country great. It isn’t one person alone who can do that -- it is all of us together.