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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Let's celebrate our common culture on this Fourth

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, July 04, 2013 12:01 am
Never before in our history have so many Americans been so uncomfortable celebrating Independence Day. America, its detractors say, has been racist and sexist and oppressive, has not applied its noble goals to everyone, has not lived up to its high ideals. Why celebrate being “American”? Never before in our history has there been such a need to celebrate Independence Day. We are drifting apart into warring tribes, picking at and inflaming the things that set us apart instead of celebrating the things we have in common. We are in danger of losing even the notion of a common culture.

America was founded on the most powerful set of ideas the world has ever known: People have “inalienable rights” just because they are human. Government exists primarily to guard those rights. The government draws its power from the consent of the governed. When the government ceases to have that consent, it is no longer valid. People must have the freedom to pursue their best visions.

Within that framework, we have fashioned distinctly American values that celebrate the human spirit: individual worth, a respect for the efforts of others, a healthy regard for dissent, a respect for tradition but an equal enthusiasm for change, a yearning for justice.

No, we have not always lived up to those ideals. But we keep trying. That is the most important American value of all: to keep reaching, always trying to be better than we are.

As we study the past, we must study it together. We have a shared history, and that history can teach us all about the mistakes America has made and the opportunities it still offers. We can learn the visions and values we share, the visions and values that make up the common American culture. America should not be about reinventing the past to suit current sensibilities. America is about reinventing the future.

Dr. Kenneth T. Jackson, a Columbia University historian, has written: “Every viable nation has to have a common culture to survive in peace.”

This Fourth of July, let us celebrate that common culture, our “Americanism” and vow not only to survive in peace, but to thrive.

(This editorial was first published on July 4, 1991.)


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