As a kid, I sort of resented July 4. You see, my birthday is July 5, today, and I always felt a little cheated by all the attention afforded my neighbor day. Of course, I still loved the parades and picnics, the fireworks and festivities.
Only as an adult did I come to appreciate the true significance of Independence Day. America remains a nation with tremendous potential for good in the world. But, today we stand at a fork in the road toward our future.
One road continues the well worn path of history, where value is measured by money, power and influence — forcing our will on others in order to get what we want. This path was paved by Egypt and Persia, Rome and Genghis Khan, and European imperialist governments who carved the world into most of our current nation states.
This path can be trod benevolently, as we struggle to do. This path can lead to great progress and improved quality of life. This path can also lead to totalitarianism, genocide, massive inequality and cultural destruction. This path explored the globe and gave us tools to increase efficiency and effectiveness in a multitude of ways. This path also gave us anti-Semitism, slavery and the near extinction of native peoples on every continent. And, if we continue to ignore our contributions to global climate change, this path may lead to a bottomless pit of unavoidable destruction.
The other path is virgin ground. No one can say for sure what lies down the future of this path because no nation has had the courage or the resources to unlock its mysteries. What matters more than the ultimate destination, however, is the manner we use to clear the path. For this path can’t be cleared with bombs and drones. Corrupt bankers and Wall Street criminals cannot show the way. All the money, power and influence in the world cannot clear the first foot of this path.
Only independence can clear the path to a great future for America: independence from our reliance on violence that batters our women and murders our school children; from our irresponsible use of technology that endangers our environment; from rewarding the acquisition of wealth at the cost of our neighbors’ well-being. Our independence can only clear this path if we are all truly free, and we all work together as equals.
Independence only exists in a community of equals. The gap between rich and poor must be narrowed until no one lacks the resources to achieve their goals. We must abolish every form of privilege: men over women; white over non-white; straight over gay; and every impediment to functional ability. Every person must work equally and together, sharing the burden, and bolstering each others’ spirits. And lastly, independence only exists in a community where every member is free to believe (or not) in the god of their choice. No one religion can dominate, and no one should have the power to enforce their religious beliefs on others.
I dream of what lies at the end of this American path. I fantasize a society without hate, with the causes of poverty and crime eradicated, with every citizen respected and respectful, empowered and empowering, loved and loving. I see this Beloved Community in our future, this Beloved America.