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Celebrating true independence

Johnson City Press • Jul 4, 2018 at 8:15 AM

As the nation celebrates its 242nd birthday today, millions of Americans will drag out their gaudiest garb to show their patriotism. You’ll see lots of red, white and blue in every way, shape and form. Some will be star-spangled from head to toe.

But we’re also betting you’ll see plenty of just blue and just red.

Not since the Civil Rights Era and the Vietnam War have Americans been this divided into two camps. Party lines, incendiary rhetoric and incivility have fractured our sense of commonality while simultaneously upending our true independence. We’ve come to see one another as the enemy, while politicians, televised talking heads and social media feed the frenzy with vitriolic characterizations and little decency. Facebook and Twitter, platforms that were designed to bring families and friends together with virtual experiences, have done just the opposite.

But this is still America, and we do not have to be just red or blue. We don’t have to blindly and steadfastly subscribe to any set of doctrines assigned by a party, politician, pundit or pulpit.

We always boast that we are the freest people on the planet, yet we surrender our thoughts to one side or the other.

Why cannot a person sanction secure borders, reasonable paths to citizenship and humane treatment of would-be immigrants? Why cannot a person both support equality and respect faith? Why should we frame social justice in a culture war? Why must we be so stubborn that we back “so-and-so or bust” while ignoring the bigger picture to further our core convictions?

Mob mentality is depriving this nation and its people of their potential. No group has a monopoly on patriotism. A “love or it leave it” mentality serves no one. Vilifying and disenfranchising is no way to make progress.

We call this Independence Day, not just because it represents the day we declared our independence from Britain, but also for the spirit of autonomy outlined by the Declaration of Independence — the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To really celebrate America is to think and act independently, not as part of a crowd, a flock or a wave. We can be together as a nation by championing our diverse ideas.

So today — if only for today — set aside blue vs. red and just be Americans. And tomorrow, remember how that felt.

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