On this July Fourth as we celebrate our nation “indivisible with liberty and justice for all,” there is a very big cloud over us. We are no longer indivisible. We are fractured into so many groups that sometimes it’s hard to tell that we were founded on the principles of unity and freedom.
As the huge carved image of George Washington stares magnificently from the southeast face of Mount Rushmore in the South Dakota Black Hills, if he could see what has happened to the defiant 13 colonies that he helped cobble together for a “more perfect union,” he’d wonder what went wrong. It’s doubtful that Washington’s 1776 vision for the country included the Black Hills or much of the country beyond the original 13 states. If one looks closely there are tears in his eyes for the loss of what was meant to be a shining star of democracy.
Each of the four presidents on Mount Rushmore can look with considerable pride on his, and our, country. Jefferson gave us the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln gave us emancipation, Theodore Roosevelt brought us into the 20th century and left us the gift of national parks, which are celebrating 100 years in existence this year.
Despite the current politics of bickering, bullying and mud-slinging, this country is more than the current headlines. Dig deep and there’s still a strong core of decency and democracy, respect and duty, love for country and all its people.
As we have grown from 13 to 50 states, we have changed significantly along the way. From Maine’s craggy coast to California’s sunny shores, we are quite a patchwork of people. We all can track our roots to someplace else. Those varied faces and thoughts have made us special. People still want to come here.
When did we forget that indivisible means exactly what it says? Why did we start turning differences into battle lines? How did we decide that equality is a nice word but not necessarily a good practice?
The men of Mount Rushmore would be ashamed of us, when they should be so very proud of all that we’ve done. We put a man on the moon! Yet many would keep others from having the basics of life. We can’t blame anyone else, or any single event. We either purposely let some of our founding principles slip away, or we watched it happen and did nothing.
Three million people a year come from all over the world to see Mount Rushmore, which has been called the “shrine to democracy.” Standing amid the forests of the Black Hills, one doesn’t see the riots, the poverty or the crime.
This July Fourth, let’s enjoy our freedoms and renew our promise to remain indivisible with liberty and justice for all.