Arguing about the direction of the nation is a natural part of democracy and particularly of a free press. But there is a time for everything, and Independence Day is a time not to question the United States, but to celebrate it. For while we have reason to be concerned, we have far more reason to rejoice.
Two hundred thirty-seven years after declaring itself independent, the United States is more powerful than any nation anywhere at any time in history. As a people, we are well-fed, well-clothed and generally well-off. And, despite the best efforts of terrorists and would-be tyrants – foreign and domestic – we are free.
That is not a list of attributes to bemoan. Our glass is not half empty; it is three-quarters full.
That is not to deny that we have problems. We do, and the list is daunting.
American troops are still in danger overseas, terrorists are still intent on harming the U.S. and its people, the economy is still troubled and unemployment remains unacceptably high. America’s population is aging, and with that, health-care costs are rising at an unsustainable rate and funding for entitlement programs is at risk. North Korea has nuclear bombs, and Iran is trying to get them. Syria is in chaos, the president has no idea what to do about it, and his critics’ ideas are worse. Colorado in the midst of what may be its worst-ever fire season and the promise of significant rain is distant and tentative.
But an observer would be hard-pressed to know that from watching the midday traffic on Main Avenue this week. The Fourth of July marks what has historically been the beginning of the heart of tourist season, and while still uncertain, the outlook locally is hopeful.
That is true on the broader stage as well.
North Korea is run by madmen, but at least of late it presents more comedic value than strategic threat. Neither Iranians nor Egyptians seem willing to follow crazies over a cliff. And the economic and trade issues the U.S. has with China stem from its de facto embrace of capitalism — a huge change from a generation ago and a major victory for American values.
And with all that, the legal and political systems whose creation began with the events we commemorate today remain the world standard. As controversial as Supreme Court rulings can be, they exemplify the rule of law. And as messy and petty as our elections often are, they remind the world that democracy can work.
Economic problems affect real people. So, of course, do wars and terrorism. And it is undeniable that the world has changed. America can never again be insular or isolated. Since Sept. 11, security and safety are never far from our thoughts.
But Americans are not easily cowed. A country built on hope and individual liberty does not have the time or the patience to live in fear. We are too busy living to be absorbed by some madman’s preoccupation with death – even when it is directed at us. And nothing so vexes our enemies.
We honor our heritage when we act like ourselves. Be careful with fire, but celebrate nonetheless.
Southwest Colorado offers a wide variety of options for holiday fun. Among them are Bayfield’s Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, Silverton’s afternoon Ducky Derby, Pagosa Springs’ Community Band Concert and Durango’s Family Fun Picnic in the Park and evening street dance. Parades abound and fireworks will be featured at several venues – including Durango, Cortez, Pagosa Springs and Silverton.
For a complete list of events, see Page 12A.