While writing about Independence Day I began thinking about what makes a nation great. I thought about how we can become greater, and how we can lose our greatness. It seems to turn on our perspective. If we believe that we are great and spend our energy and time focusing on what we have to offer we become greater. If we focus on our perceived weaknesses we lose the greatness that we have.
There is value in admitting our imperfections, but if we focus on those imperfections and idealize what is happening in other parts of the world we will become like the rest of the world. If that is what we want then we must not be a great nation because the rest of the world has something that we want. Sadly on the 4th of July I found a post from a self described “Progressive” stating that we should do away with displays of national allegiance.
If we are to become greater we must recognize what we have to offer the world. What we offer the world is our demonstration of the responsibilities and rights that are inherent in individual liberty. The key is “individual.” Our greatness does not stem from our form of government – that has been copied and modified in many places with varying degrees of success. Our greatness lies in individuals striving to better themselves. We often talk about individuals and families striving for better economic situations, but that is a two dimensional picture. What we should be talking about is the individual liberty to make choices, wrong choices and right choices, and accept the consequences of those choices. We should be emphasizing the responsibility of people in our country to overcome discrimination, not the right of people to play the victim.
I am coming to believe that individuals striving to better themselves does not include individuals striving to use the law to make others participate in improving the economic situation of those around them. As John Stossel put it, “when people are ordered by the government to be charitable, it’s not virtuous; it’s compelled. . . . Moral action is freely chosen action.”
In my Independence Day post I concluded that remembering and reciting our historical founding were keys to becoming real Americans – Americans who have bought into the idea of America and American liberty. As I was looking for ideas on a new title I came across U.S. History.org with a list of 18 historical documents which help define America and what we stand for. These range from the Magna Carta in 1215 to the American’s Creed in 1918. Go have a look. I believe that familiarity with these founding documents will help to create a framework for common understanding of our historical context which then shapes our current issues and discussions.