Today, we celebrate our nation’s birthday. Before country, God is my first sovereign and following that I have a deep love for our country.
The American Experiment, 244 years after the Declaration of Independence, is still ongoing and still a work in progress.
The declaration made by the thirteen colonies is a declaration that we continue to make—”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.”
Thomas Jefferson, who penned these words, had many faults. All those who signed the Declaration in 1776 had faults. All of us who lived under the country formed by these words have faults.
The American ideal is one where we do not accept these faults. The American ideal demands that we work through them and past them.
“That all men are created equal.” Even in 1776 as we proclaimed it to be self-evident, it was not realized. When they said “men”, men are to whom rights were extended. White men, actually, and property owners at that. In the last 244 years, we have continued to shed away boundaries and distinctions that have separated us from stating that “all men are created equal” and living that all people are created equal.
Next month, we celebrate 100 years of women having the constitutional right to vote. Last February, we celebrated 150 years since race was no longer a factor—though it took us far too long after that to realize that constitutional amendment in a substantial way across the land.
Today, we continue our struggle making the American Ideal a reality. We are dealing with long-brewing inequality that still exists in our society. For many, this has been a daily experience. For many others, they may never have realized it existed. This is a difficult time—but that is not a bad thing. For us to best honor our heritage, we have to continue pushing to realize our Declaration of Independence, which means continuing the American Revolution. The battle against England has long, long been settled, but the battle to rise above ourselves to be better, to be the shining city on a hill that serves as the beacon of democracy and governance to all.
I love this country. I firmly believe that being an American and striving for these ideals make me a better person (and a better Catholic). That love of country does not mean there are not faults in America nor does it mean that I accept these faults. My love demands that I take an honest account of where we stand in our American Experiment, to utilize our self-evident rights that we have etched into our Bill of Rights, and to push to make this country better for my children and grandchildren than the one I’m in today.
If I can’t look at this country honestly, if I can’t hear the experiences of others and see the flaws that we still have, if I fail to heed the least of our brothers and sisters—both citizens and those outside our borders who believe this land is the land of hope and opportunity, then there is no way for me to make this country better for myself, my family, or my fellow citizens.