On Independence Day

OUR OPINION: We’re a nation charged with American spirit — we can do better

07/03/2014 7:38 PM

07/03/2014 7:39 PM

The most important aspect of America that its people should celebrate on this Independence Day is, well, independence itself.

It sounds obvious, but everywhere one looks around the world today, millions struggle for something every American assumes as a natural birthright, the reason behind the grand observance of July 4: the establishment of a free and independent country beholden to no other.

Think about it. Whether it’s Kurds in the Middle East, Darfuris in Africa, Ukrainians in Eastern Europe or — under occupation by an oppressive neighbor — Tibetans in the hinterland of Asia, the yearning for independence remains a powerful engine of history, the stuff of daily headlines.

Of course, independence does not guarantee freedom. Think Cuba. But it is an indispensable precursor. No people can realistically aspire to freedom until they have the means and opportunity to decide their own destiny.

That is what the Founding Fathers fought for. They laid a solid foundation: A stirring Declaration of Independence. A painstakingly crafted, ingenious Constitution that has stood the test of centuries. A form of government that, decades later, Abraham Lincoln called “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The legacy of every American includes exemplary leaders, beginning with the first president, George Washington. They were far from perfect, but they dedicated their lives to the creation of a nation better than any that had come before it in history. They instilled this basic notion in the American character as part of our genetic instruction: Never cease to want something better, and be willing to work for it — and fight for it when necessary. This drive forms part of our national DNA.

In that spirit, we would be remiss to overlook the discouraging atmosphere of our current politics, the feeling of being stuck in an endless cycle of partisan discord that blocks the nation’s progress on every front. We cannot be better if we do not do better.

Congress is paralyzed by grid-lock. A president, frustrated by obstructionist tactics and one side’s adamant refusal to engage in legislative bargaining, is reduced to near incoherence, admonishing them “to pass a darn bill” rather than do nothing about the nation’s crippled immigration system.

The Republican leader of the House, meanwhile, announces that his caucus will sue the president.

Come on. The president may have overstepped his boundaries on occasion, as a Supreme Court decision noted last week regarding his power of appointment, but he is no dictator. If anything, he is slow to act. And when he does, it’s because he’s filling a vacuum of inactivity created by lawmakers.

Granted, the president is no LBJ when it comes to dealing with recalcitrant legislators.

He could have done better. Yet he has time and again reached out to Republicans, and their answer can best be characterized by the declaration of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the party’s leader in the Senate, who on one notable occasion said his No. 1 goal was to defeat the president.

Such a paltry legislative ambition for someone in such high office. Surely our nation’s leaders can want something better. Most Americans do. And surely lawmakers can perform better. Most Americans expect them to.

On this Independence Day, our fondest wish as we blow out 238 candles on the nation’s birthday cake, is that our leaders live up to the promise of forming a more perfect union.

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