The greatness of America has been at the center of some contentious debate as of late.
From campaign slogans to maybe a faltering sense of what we as a nation stand for to the lump in your throat as Old Glory unfurls in a summer breeze, the concept of America’s greatness is packed full of emotions. Because also packed within it is the concept of our identity.
This nation was founded upon a unique set of beliefs that have been tested from the start. Actually, they were tested long before the notion of a nation was ever conceived and tested along every step leading to the Revolutionary War. The suggestion, and ultimate conclusion, by our Founders that all people are created equal (in the abstract, anyway) had been up for debate in the New World since Columbus encountered indigenous people in the Bahamas — arguably the first known contact between Europeans and New World peoples.
The testing never stopped.
But though it’s been tested — battered through the incomprehensible horrors of the genocide of First Nations people and slavery of Africans — the ideal endures. Though we fought a bloody war pitting brother against brother, and since then countless legal wars in the courts along with wars of will in the streets and in our minds — the ideal endures.
If we claim the banner of a free people as our ultimate identity, if we truly believe that this is who we are, then the sacred principle that all people are created equal must still pulse in the breast of the republic. Doesn’t it?
Despite setbacks and sidetracks, and myriad obstacles embedded into the culture, the dream of America is still very much alive. But the testing continues, it likely always will.
It’s up to us to ensure that our birthrights as Americans — the freedom to say what we want, worship who we want or worship not at all, love who we want, and demand fair and equal treatment in the eyes of the law regardless — are extended in totality not only to those who do not look like us, but also to those who don’t think like us. The soul of America is best understood through the diversity of her people across the range of skin color, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, and country of origin.
E pluribus, unum — out of many, one.
There is no greater version of America than that found within the transcendent ideal of morality at the core of our nation, those truths held to be self-evident. — That all people are born equal. That all people are endowed with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.