Friday, July 4, 2014
I am proud to be a part of the United States of America (having been lucky enough to be born here). Yet on this date, I also want to declare my pride in simply being a human being.
In the 1770s, our intellectual forefathers coalesced a philosophy of human rights, government responsibility, and civility that truly started a revolution. This was not unique or somehow god-given. It was the evolution of political thought that started with the ancients, was fed by peasant revolts, theorized by great thinkers, and experimented at local levels in feudal systems.
Humans are wired to be single minded individuals in an enduring fight against all things natural (ie. things we can't control). Over the millennium, we decided that we could "conquer" nature by teaming up and organizing a tiered community whereby each of us could collectively improve our lot. We "agreed" to live under a social contract where we gave up certain individual rights and allowed some other authority to govern. This is what gave Kings their "right" to the throne.
All of this worked well, unless somehow the governing bodies were not keeping their side of the bargain. And, we would be better off fighting nature on our own. The ebb and flow of this tension is exactly what was happening in the mid 1700s with the frontier against the English crown. The long term sovereign was not helping us in a meaningful way, so we revolted and set up a new form of "social contract" and established a new political band that would connect us. While not perfect, our system has provided the equilibrium between the collective and the individual.
We should be celebrate our achievements! Further, we should continue to strive to spread our version of utopia to all mankind. We are not unique or special in our "unalienable Rights" to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
My experience should not be just for me within my borders. The poor Indian, raped girl in Nigeria, transexual in Russia, etc., etc. etc. should be a part of our social contract; and, we should all "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor". When we do not, we bring shame to the very forward thinking of our beloved founding fathers.
Happy 4th of July (but don't forget to imagine a better world for all)!
For more reading on the subject, I suggest the following:
The Ideological Origins American Revolution, by Bernard Bailyn
Chances are, you'll learn more about our country's legacy from these pages than all the television you'll see in a lifetime.