Friday, July 05, 2024

Opinion: Why America is still 'an experiment worth pursuing'

Abraham Lincoln wrote that while America's prosperity was dependent upon the union of the states,
'the primary cause' was the principle of 'Liberty to all.' (Adobe Stock photo)

Two hundred years ago, 19th-century French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville described the United States as "exceptional." Not even 10 years ago, Pew Research Center polls found Americans more upbeat than people in other wealthy nations. While not scientific, should you search "what's great about living in America?" or "what's great about being an American?" you'll discover pages upon pages richly filled with why America -- despite its failings and current political turmoil -- is still one of the best places to live in the world. In 2023, The Washington Post's Editorial Board offered an opinion on why Independence Day is still worth celebrating. Some lightly edited highlights are below.

There is a tide of worry about a lack of civic cohesion, intense partisanship, and, to some, a sense of hopelessness. July Fourth, however, is a day to celebrate, among other national virtues, the United States’ proven capacity for renewal and self-improvement. The staying power of our system comes from its ability to correct and recalibrate. Free elections and open markets create a dynamism that increases political and economic freedom.

The genius of America is that it’s built for give and take, accommodation and compromise, checks and balances, reform and reaction. People in China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Cuba aspire to freedom. But their systems don’t tolerate constructive dissent.

Yes, we hear people who should know better say things have never been this bad. Measured by almost every metric, the United States is better off than 200 — or even 20 — years ago. Start with economic well-being: The U.S.-led global order has brought millions out of poverty. America remains the capital of medical, technological and artistic invention.

The framers designed a self-healing system that also allows for moral growth. We carry the scars of the Civil War, the Jim Crow era, the Great Depression, McCarthyism, Watergate and Vietnam but came out of them a better people. The country that initially counted enslaved people as three-fifths of a person twice elected a Black president.

So why are many Americans no longer as proud of their country? Corrosive partisanship is no small part of the answer. . . . Alarmingly, across party lines, just 18% of 18-to-34-year-olds say they’re extremely proud of this country. This generation grew up amid the dislocation of the Great Recession, seemingly endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, school shootings and active-shooter drills. . . . .With these frames of reference, fear and hopelessness are unsurprising. A decline in national pride ought not be viewed in isolation from daily events, but these events also provide evidence of this nation’s resiliency. . .
Fourth of July weekend events are good places for Americans
to hang out together and celebrate. (Adobe Stock photo)

Even the chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border. . . is a reminder that this country remains a beacon of opportunity so powerful that people around the world are willing to take enormous risks to move into what they understand to be a promised land.

Between baseball and barbecue, let’s all take a deep breath. . . . Despite the corrosiveness of self-doubt and political tribalism, there is much to celebrate. American values have matured and endured, and while our union is still far from perfect, we continue to believe it’s an experiment worth pursuing."

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