Happy Fourth of July everyone! Before heading off to a bbq, I wanted to give a pause and think about a popular slogan from the past election year. You know this from the hat's and banners for Donald Trump; "Make America Great Again." I'm trying to walk this carefully as I know this can be controversial. This post isn't about Donald Trump. I want to pause on what makes America a great place and nation.
What Makes America Great?
Typically we thank our military servicemen and servicewomen for their bravery and sacrifice to stand and fight for American rights. I don't mean disrespect to any of them, but I don't entirely think they alone make America great. When I look at American history, from the days of the Founding Fathers (it's ok to say Founding Fathers?) on to today, it's a checkered past with both ups and downs. From slavery, the civil war, segregation, corporate corruption, and other blights, it's easy to get discouraged about what America stands for.
On the other side of the coin, we get many people and communities who see a wrong or blight in our nation and courageously stand up against the blight; to right a wrong.
All Men, All People Make America Great
People like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Harriet Beacher Stowe, abolitionists, who stood against the grain of their contemporaries and fought for an end to slavery and enacting of equality to all human beings in America. Controversially perhaps, people like Abraham Lincoln are etched with them in history as righting a wrong when it was in their power to do so.
Women Make America Great
We have Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ida B. Wells, and many in their ranks who pushed for women's rights and eventually gaining rights for women to legally vote in our democracy. That was a big first step, with many rights still to be fought for an won over many decades.
This Land is Your Land
Along with military contribution, Native Americans have given to the United States. As a basis of Federalist government and influence, the Iroquois form of government controversially had an influence on the forming of the United States Constitution and the Articles of Federation. (I understand this claim is heavily controversial. My scholarship on US history is very limited. But, there's a school of thought out there, with some support coming from the likes of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin who took a respect of the Iroquois and Six Nations. See here for reference https://www.senate.gov/reference/resources/pdf/hconres331.pdf)
I'm sure there are more contributions and I would love to hear from you.
My list is far from complete and needs more contribution. These are just some famous examples. Deeper still has been the family fabric that is often the bedrock of the average American. The way we treat each other, the foreigner, for good or bad, it comes from our family upbringing. The values of respect, honor, dignity, it's in our laws, but it's also in our personalities. When those values are challenged, many average Joe's stand up as Americans to help us remember:
"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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security..." - The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America