Our Less Than Perfect Union

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

On this day, we commemorate the American colonies’ Declaration of Independence, proclaimed in 1776 out of the ambitious belief that, in this New World, it would be possible to build a nation out of the best elements of the Old World, while eschewing its worst excesses and injustices.

It was a declaration written by racists and slaveholders, by settler colonists who believed themselves superior to the native Americans they slaughtered and displaced, by men who believed women had no place in decisions of public affairs.

Fortunately, they grounded their declaration—and the democratic republic they went on to establish—in nobler values than those they themselves lived by: equality, universal human rights, and government by the governed to uphold those rights. These are ideals that we have continued to strive toward, and that have, at many points, made our country a beacon for others in the world.

Our beacon has flickered and waned considerably this year. But our country’s founding principles remain worth celebrating—and striving toward—this day and every day of the year.