America’s Mistakes Will Never Diminish Our Spirit

As most Americans observe Independence Day, a few among us insist July 4 is nothing to celebrate. The United States of America is flawed deeply, they insist. We should forget the Declaration of Independence, repeal the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and start anew, some cynics maintain.

That would ignore a quarter-millennium of evidence, not just here but throughout the world, that the nation’s founders were right.

Critics of our form of government — and even our people as a nation — insist the very wording of the Declaration of Independence is so hypocritical it condemns that stance taken by our ancestors and everything else they did.

In fact, the preamble to the declaration is justly revered for what it says: “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.”

Hypocrisy, claim the critics, pointing to the enslavement of millions of black men, women and children at the time Americans declared our independence from Great Britain.

Indeed, slavery is a blot on our history. It required the Civil War, with massive shedding of blood, to end the abhorrent practice.

And yes, there were other great injustices done. The manner in which Native Americans were treated comes to mind.

But few thoughtful Americans believed our nation, as it was being created, was perfect. They knew its flaws, both all too well.

They never intended the preamble and the words that followed to be a claim of perfection. To the contrary, they saw it as a rebuke to Great Britain and a warning to others in the future.

God granted humankind certain rights, the founders wrote. Infringe upon them at your own risk, they warned.

Both the declaration and much of the Constitution and Bill of Rights were intended as statements of the ideals of Americans as a people.

No better statement of goals for government has ever been written.

Today, then, we have good reason to celebrate a government founded in the knowledge human beings can never be perfect — but resting on the proposition that we Americans are determined to do our best to make our nation what hundreds of millions across the globe see it as: a shining city on a hill.

God bless us all in that endeavor, and God bless the United States of America.

Happy Fourth of July!