Celebrating a successful experiment on the Fourth

ANYONE WHO THINKS TIMES are contentious and perilous these days should study a little of the history of the period of American history we will celebrate this weekend.

The Fourth of July holiday celebrates the Declaration of Independence that created a new nation, the United States of America. It took a long and costly Revolutionary War to make a fact what that document declared, but the experiment in a radical new form of republican democratic government has proven successful, for the most part, over the next two-plus centuries.

But that bold new step in 1776 was not taken easily and was not without stumbles and pratfalls then and since.

As with any other momentous effort, it was not taken without great debate and stubborn opposition. Still, the step was taken, and the nation that was created - the United States of America - has grown, flourished and thrived since then, albeit not without a tremendous amount of growing pains.

Those pains continue even today. There are divisions among American citizenry — some longstanding with deep roots, others newly minted — that may never be resolved or, if they are, cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all.

But the American way is to allow all to have a voice on all issues, to hear all sides of the issue and then to eventually come to a resolution and move on. It’s a way that’s proven successful, for the most part, for the 200-plus years of our history, despite the considerable heat and light such debates can create at times.

That’s part of the event that we celebrate on the Fourth of July as well. The decision to break the ties with England and the crown was far from a unanimous decision. There was great debate and great anguish on the part of those who made that decision, and affirming it cost greatly in both money and blood. Still, a consensus was reached, the action was taken and the results proved beneficial.

That is the way we must approach the issues and decisions of today — with the realization that there may be no perfect solution, certainly no solution that will please all, but nonetheless a solution that can be agreed upon by a majority and redound to the benefit of most, if not all, of us.

It was Winston Churchill who once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” Given the frailties and vagaries of human beings and human society, Churchill was correct.

That’s the greatest legacy of that original Fourth of July, a system of government that gives voice to all, affirms the basic rights of all and works to the greater good of all. It has been that way for more than two and a quarter centuries, and there is no reason to believe it will not continue to be true for centuries beyond today.


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