A Reflection on Independence Day

I was blessed to be born in the United States of America. The privileges and rights I enjoy in my education, my work, and my relationships are things I try not to take for granted. The freedom and liberty we enjoy means choice, and choice is a powerful thing. Choice means responsibility, the responsibility of mature decision-making. Freedom, choice, responsibility — these are our blessings and our curses. Those words carry far more weight to them than one realizes at times.

On this Fourth of July, it’s clear our country stands at a crossroads of those three virtues. We face many questions about the defining nature of our character as a people, and there is no better time than the anniversary of our nation’s birth to reflect upon those questions.

I think the first step in that reflection is recognizing our blessings. We have trials in our lives to varying degrees, but we live in a nation in which we are blessed with opportunity to build better lives for ourselves and others. We should not rest on our laurels. We should lift each other up to make a better country for all of us. The divisiveness that fills the air is not a mood that will carry us to a better future.

We should reflect on the champions of our three virtues — from the original signatories of the Declaration of Independence, to abolitionists and suffragettes, and to the leaders of modern civil rights movements — and ask ourselves what we are doing to honor their sacrifice. What are we doing to make a positive impact? Is what we’re doing actually changing anything? Are the choices we’re making with the freedom we have responsible and fair-minded? Are we doing too much out of spite?

There is more that unites us as a people than separates us into our tribes. In times of great crisis, we’ve come together to fight for what was right, fighting for a just country and a just world. We can do that again when we reorient ourselves ethically. It is not enough to be against something, you have to be for something as well, and we all want our country to succeed. That means leaving no one behind.