Essay №7: America’s Rose Bush
A Note on Independence Day 2017
“Four score and seven years ago.” “Yes we can. Yes we did.” “Believe in the greatness of America.” “I have a dream.” “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” These are the words of individuals who, regardless of policy differences, embodied the spirit of what today is intended to be. These are words that were not designed for the latest poll. These are words not designed for your vote. These are words that help shape the spirit of America.
Exist during the moments of these words. Listen to the the structure of these phrases and see the sun slowly begin to break over the distant edge of as far as your eyes can see. That ray of light is the spirit of America. These words turn your attention to a vision of something just off the horizon, something we keep in sight and something we reach for. Government is not the shepherd and we the flock. The good shepherd that reigns supreme is the spirit in which the founders of this nation tattooed into the fabrics of a document we seek to celebrate today.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness — The Declaration of Independence; July 4th, 1776
Justice and courage are two parallels of one another, bending and moving in symmetry. One can argue that the spirit of America, in its current state, has strayed too far from the arc of justice. We have strayed from a time in which people would break from their party lines to fight for broader principles; principles that unambiguously encompass “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The love for country must always trump hate. The love for country must be equal to our principles of justice and courage. Political motivations have potentialities that can weave deep rooted fear into a society whose institutions were created to raise people up, not put them down. Courage can heighten in the face of intimidation and defiance. ‘Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.’
To be courageous, requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circumstance. It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all.
-President John F. Kennedy
America is the embodiment of deep contradictions, we are the Hester Prynne of nations — we are both bad and beautiful, holy and sinful, conventional and radical, extrovert and introvert, powerful and weak, victim and object, unified and divided, Democrat and Republican. The country gathers today in the midst of unwitting uncertainty, in both hope and fear.
But on one side of the portal, and rooted almost at the threshold, was a wild rosebush, covered, in this month of June, with its delicate gems, which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in, and to the condemned criminal as he came forth to his doom, in token that the deep heart of Nature could pity and be kind to him. — Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Scarlett Letter
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation certifying the rose as the national flower in a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden. A rose bush rests comfortably at the gates of Democracy in the United States. It is our omen illuminating that justice, even juxtaposed to a stain on a society, will prevail. The rose at the gate of Democracy is the “sweet moral blossom” to “relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.” Our civil society depends on linking an ethics of the common good with the uses of power. Liberty is no longer an unalienable right, but has become a matter of entitlement. When power is abused, the common good is scanted. Whether we enter and embrace the gates of Democracy or we turn and walk away from it, the last sight we see when walking in either direction is the rose bush.
“America is Great, because America is Good.” — Hillary Rodham Clinton