Editor: Most Americans carry impressions of the history and meaning of the commemoration of the nation’s independence, celebrated yearly on July 4.
The history of events surrounding the emergence of what came to be called the United States of America is taught in every public school across the land, and Americans are known for their pride in the virtues honored by achievements of the “founding fathers.”
Yet we now live at a time when the deviations in what the virtues of independence mean and how they are expressed have seldom been greater. Surely, we assure ourselves, our differences today are less than they once were, because we are not in armed conflict with fellow citizens, at least not in organized military operations.
But we witness all too frequently mass killings of innocent people, often including children, by individuals who have, for various reasons and in a variety of ways, crossed a threshold of intolerance that causes them to seek reprisal by murdering fellow citizens, neighbors, and human beings.
The cumulative loss of thousands of lives through a prolonged series of such catastrophic incidents, though undisputedly tragic, is rationalized as a problem of mental health and access to weapons, the ownership and proliferation of which is, not without irony, avidly defended under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
But we are dangerously deluding ourselves if, in honest evaluation of “independence,” we ignore less extreme forms of contempt and abuse that are brazenly evident in contemporary America. Expression of this “independence” often cultivates acrimony, in a self-propagating cycle of dysfunctional divisiveness.
Much has been said about the growing polarization among Americans’ political positions and how they evolved. The term “tribalism” is often used, not inappropriately, to describe the divides and allegiances that separate and define us.
Expression of independence seems to increasingly take the form of tribal identity of one kind or another. Electronic circulation of written and spoken words, both official and informal, saturate our awareness daily via social media, cable news, and political events. We are at war with one another, in part weaponized by antagonistic manifestation of independence.
It remains to be determined if there is a remedy that will enable American independence to embrace sufficient empathy, mutual respect and heartfelt interdependence to repair a deeply distraught, wounded nation.
David C. Kyler