Editorial: Liberty is an all or nothing thing
Today's editorial, with some slight modification, was first published on July 4, 2014:
John Adams, an imperfect but reverent statesman, is one of our favorite Founding Fathers partly because he left a greater written record than any other founder and partly because he was so wont toward endearingly painful self-reflection.
He believed we would celebrate our freedom every July 2 because that was the day the Continental Congress first voted for independence. But the Declaration of Independence wasn't approved until two days later, and thus, since Thomas Jefferson's language captured the spirit of 1776, July 4 captured the annual holiday.
Would people have been saying "Happy Second" instead of "Happy Fourth" had Adams been right? We don't care much for either salutation. It's Independence Day. Let's use the name that reminds us what the holiday celebrates.
And Jefferson's words? Truth be told, much of the Declaration lacks the eloquence often accorded to it, but we're beholden to this passage:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Remember that passage. You don't truly embrace freedom unless you embrace those words. You don't truly embrace freedom for yourself unless you also embrace it for others.
That's more difficult than it sounds, because oftentimes others may not share our judgment for how they should lead their lives. We should value their freedom to be wrong more than we value our conviction that we are right.
There is, as we all know, much to criticize about America. We are not a perfect country. We're afflicted by shortcomings as has been every nation in history. And the recent movement toward greater social justice certainly reminds all of us of that.
But let us remember that despite all our flaws, we still are a beacon of hope for the huddled masses around the world suffering from sectarian violence rooted in ancient tribal and religious identities.
It is not that America is innocent of atrocities or of great bigotry and discrimination. But we evolve.
Our liberty is an ideal that has continued to progress from year to year. We are, as a wise friend reminded us the other day, a beacon of hope because we're committed to seeing that those hatreds don't become a part of our future.
Look inside suburban schools, and they are filled with students whose families originated all around the globe. Despite ethnic and economic differences, we all are united in our wish for long, prosperous and happy lives for our children.
Because we live in a nation founded on the principals of securing human rights and living by a rule of law, we are all free to pursue our own definition of happiness.
That's worthy of celebration.