When I was a kid — probably no more than 15 or 16 — I wrote a 10-page essay entitled “Should We Follow the Dream?” in which I came up with arguments for why the American Dream (really Jefferson’s vision of liberal democracy) was still meaningful to young people and a worthy ideal to dedicate one’s life to. As soon as I had finished writing it, I read it approvingly, placed it into an envelope and mailed it off… to the President of the United States. Not as insanely egocentric as you might think — actually, it was an act of some desperation. About the same time I visited my local parish priest, Father Murphy, to tell him that my faith was failing — I had started to think that there was no one listening to my prayers at night (his impatient response: “Pray harder”). I wrote to the president not because my fervor for America was so great, but because it was weakening. I grew up through the tail end of Vietnam and Watergate, witnessed the paralysis caused by the Iranian hostage crisis, the partisan rancor over Reagan’s policies, the inattention to AIDS and poverty. The disconnect between the ideals of the nation and its practice was so great that I started withdrawing a personal committment and trust. I didn’t want to be hurt anymore. That continued for a long time, helped along by a generation of craven politicians who, it seemed, would sink to any depth to win power. It has only recently started to change. For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m in sync with many of my fellows, who have grown weary of vicious partisan politics from the extremes of the two parties. In my own life a feeling of boredom and weariness is often a sign that some situation has grown unbearable and must be changed. It feels like the country is on the verge of deciding something big.
Here are a couple of suggestions for things to do to mark the 4th:
1. Take a few minutes out of your day (no more than 20, to be sure) to re-read something you haven’t read since high school. [Read all of it]. It’s accessible, it’s important and I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.
2. If you have a few dollars you can spare, send them to the folks at [The Wounded Warrior Project]. They’re doing good work, but they can’t do it alone.
Happy Independence Day