The Fourth of July. Independence Day. America’s birthday. Whatever you call it, we’ve landed on the date Americans celebrate our country.
Some might wonder how that looks right now. I’ve heard a lot lately about a lack of civility – that we’ve devolved into a nation of us versus them, usually accompanied by a wistful longing for the days when “we were just Americans.”
I’d like to proffer that we’re still just Americans. Ones who disagree, often loudly, sometimes angrily, but Americans all the same. I’d also argue that right to disagree without getting thrown into prison is a large part of what makes America great (yes, still).
Much of what I typically read on July 4th focuses on our general awesomeness. (No one accuses us of being overly modest.) Freedoms and opportunities, the beauty of our government and legal system. It’s a sis-boom-bah! approach to the holiday. But today I’d like to focus on a few obligations because without every single one of us doing our part this place just sort of coasts. And I believe the founding fathers were looking for more than resting on laurels from their descendents.
Civic responsibility. This means way more than simply voting. It’s showing up in your community. It’s caring about more than just yourself, making decisions based on the greater good. It’s holding yourself accountable – all the time, not just when others are watching. Now demand the same from your government.
Speaking out. There’s a moral responsibility that comes with living in a nation founded on the principles of individual liberty, the land of opportunity, and a belief that all men are created equal. If you see things happening that run contrary to our basic tenets, it’s your job to speak up. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Especially when it’s uncomfortable.
Personal responsibility. Put.your.house.in.order. America works best when everyone brings their strengths to the table. My neighbor’s skill set fills in my gaps and vice versa, so step up to the plate. Get involved. If you’re sitting in your BarcaLounger bitching about the state of the union, you’re doing this America thing wrong.
Use your voice. If someone tries to quash it, get louder. Democracy takes everyone’s participation.