The United States of Aspiration

The Fourth of July celebrations will be subdued this year. And it is not only because the US is in the middle of a devastating pandemic, but because there has been greater awareness in recent months than perhaps ever before of the flawed state of our democracy. Against that backdrop, it is not unreasonable for people to wonder about the usual celebrations we’d normally have on Independence Day. What does it mean at such a time to celebrate America?

A Democracy In Part

A thoughtful review of history will reveal that the Founding Fathers were not democrats, at least not as we would understand it. In fact, it has been said that during the Revolutionary period, the word revolution was not terribly frightening: England had had a “Glorious Revolution” with the ascent of William & Mary to the throne that breathed new life into Great Britain’s power and influence. The word that did scare many in that era was republic.

  • Each state regardless of population would be represented by two senators, giving disproportionate power to smaller, less populated states. Art. I §3
  • Senators were elected by the state legislatures of the states they represented. Art. I §3
  • Congress could exercise “exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” over the federal district constituting the seat of government. However, as this District, by definition, would be outside the “States,” the residents of said District would be disenfranchised. Art. I §8.
The Founders, letting the cat out of the bag

O Beautiful for Patriot Dream

It was the great 20th Century preacher William Sloan Coffin who said,

There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country, a reflection of God’s lover’s quarrel with all the world.

The patriots who carry on this lover’s quarrel with their country are the ones who carry in their hearts this aspirational quality of America. They are the ones who critique the United States for its failure to live up to the ideals it unleashed upon our world and our consciousness.

Retired Methodist pastor, lawyer, language nerd, and Red Sox fan. Upstate NY transplant in DC. Author of “The Certainty of Uncertainty.”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store