On this 4th of July, bitter divisions are markedly and grievously evident among so-called fellow Americans. Is the Covid-19 pandemic intensifying in our country? Or is it actually winding down? Do some of our methods of governing, policing and even voting exacerbate inequality ? Or is the playing field, in this land of opportunity, truly and gloriously level for all Americans?
More than ever, answers to such questions depend upon our perspective. Our perspective, more than ever, influences where we choose to find our information, and what we perceive as fact or fiction. And where we choose to find our information, in turn, reinforces our perspective. If we associate almost exclusively with those whose opinions echo ours, our perspective is further fortified, and our views increasingly justified.
Have you ever held firmly to a belief, certain without a doubt of the righteousness and correctness of your conviction? And then, perhaps in response to an unexpected observation, or a comment by a friend, or a passage in a book, be prompted to rethink that conviction? And in so doing, to watch the sure foundation develop cracks and crumble to dust?
I’m recently been reconsidering some of my long-held viewpoints. Most of us probably hold fast to some beliefs that need to be reevaluated. Some of the “truths” we espouse may be opinions based on flawed premises. An openness to new ideas implies a willingness to rethink. Changing one’s mind may not be evidence of weakness of will or intellect, but instead, of humility that leads to wisdom. We should be wary of those in leadership positions who claim otherwise. Let’s not be led astray by those who actively seek to magnify rather than diminish the divisions between us.
On July 4th, we celebrate our nation’s founding principles of liberty and justice for all. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves this: Do we really want these ideals to apply to everyone? Or only to ourselves? Is it liberty and justice for all? Or liberty and justice for me? Let’s reexamine our perspectives. Let’s be humble as we try to understand those of others. We can work toward unity while honoring diversity. Our country has done this before. We can do it again.
Oh beautiful, for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.
–America the Beautiful
words by Katharine Lee Bates, 1904
music by Samuel A. Ward, 1888