by James A. Wilson
Independence Day comes in the midst of unbelievable polarization in these United States. Charlottsville, Virginia, home to Thomas Jefferson, has decided to make no official recognition of his birthday. The author of the Declaration of Independence was our first secretary of state, second vice president, and third president. He doubled our expanse through the Louisiana Purchase and led us through our first post-revolutionary war. But…he was a slave owner.
Slavery and slave holding is indefensible and inexcusable;
Make no mistake. But how sad that – against his unique accomplishments – this is all that matters to the arbiters of hindsight. Truly those who can do and those who cannot criticize.
Major media outlets describe the observance of our nation’s birth as obnoxious. Actually, it is the consuming hatred for our president behind such sentiments that is obnoxious. And sad.
Nike has pulled an edition of its shoes off the market because an angry former NFL quarterback objects to the depiction of Betsy Ross’ flag on the shoes; people owned slaves at that time. Indeed they did, and it was a horror, but it was people like Ross who loved God and their country enough to eradicate slavery as rapidly as circumstances permitted. Politically correct types like the current complainers made every effort to perpetuate slavery at the time – see Democrat Party, origins and history – while the spiritual ancestors of today’s conservatives brought it down. I abhor the polarization and hatred on both sides of today, but I honor Arizona’s governor for taking a stand and pulling state subsidies from Nike.
Is this kind of self-consumption what our nation is about from her beginnings? I don’t think so.
The Declaration of Independence begins with a statement of respect for the opinions of mankind – that’s right, respect even for those who may disagree. It moves forward with this startling and unprecedented statement, “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.” There is more, but the business end is in the above. What did we – and I do mean we – actually say?
We said – for openers – that what we are about to commit our lives toward is self-evident truth. It is not subject to argumentation, mathematical formula, social science studies, or even a poll. What comes next – we said – is so patently obvious any human being should be able to see and embrace it. The revolutionaries staked their lives on that reality and not one of them emerged from the war without having lost lives, family, freedom or property.
It is our imperfect effort to embody this truth that we celebrate each July Fourth. We’ve made a lot of progress in two and a half centuries; I am deeply proud to be an American. There is racism here, but no more than anywhere else and a good deal less than in most nations. We wrote a constitution counting each black person as three fifths of one not to dehumanize but to facilitate the end of slavery by making it difficult for slave states to dominate government. We fought the bloodiest war of our history to accomplish that feat and thousands – black and white – gave their lives in the struggle for civil rights for all. The fight has been hard won but today we enter a campaign filled with people of multiple colors and races, men and women; we elected a black man in 2008 and 12. I cannot say I support any of their positions, but I cherish a nation in which all are welcome to serve.
This truth includes but is not limited to three propositions: All of us are created equal in our being, equally entitled to whatever benefits emerge from our creation and equally authorized to live out that creation. All of us enjoy unlimited access to life itself, the liberty without which life is not worth much, and the pursuit – not necessarily the achievement – of happiness. All legitimate governments are instituted for the sole purpose of guaranteeing those rights. Underlying these three is the clear assertion of a personal Creator, one who endows.
We have developed an economic and healthcare system – not to mention a science base that sent men to the moon and developed the internet – that are the envy of the world. The economy – as one example – was also hard fought. We went from faith unfettered capitalism is the best way for everyone to have that chance to pursue happiness to an era in which we learned it was still the best – but only when restricted by law to a leveled playing field. We have watched other nations suffer under socialism and communism and decided to perfect what we have rather than imitate them.
We have ground still to gain, but is the cup half empty or more than three quarters full? Can we look squarely at the reality some of our heroes are flawed and less than heroic human beings who nonetheless birthed the greatest nation on earth? Can we celebrate the reality that this intentional Creator achieved America partnering with such flawed human beings and He can achieve even greater things with us as we repent and turn our hearts toward Him more and more?
The authors of our Declaration of Independence seem to believe this. Being content to judge our forebears trashes us more than it trashes them. Let us celebrate what we have and redouble our efforts to become all that Jefferson and his colleagues hoped and prayed for.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books or at firstname.lastname@example.org