Recently on Facebook, I noticed a post from a conservative friend: “I would like someone out there to ask an ACLU-loving, radical liberal what they [sic] really want our country to be. It would be very interesting to hear it from their own lips what their twisted view of freedom is!”
This being America’s birthday, I thought I’d give it a shot. (Caveat: While I do love the ACLU, I don’t think the real radical liberals accept me as one of their own, or trust me to speak on their behalf.)
What do I want our country to be? How about a place where we can at least respect each other as fellow Americans, regardless of our political beliefs? How about a place where the political party you checked off on your voter registration form isn’t the first thing you demand to know about a fellow citizen? Or a place where we don’t disregard each other’s views if somebody checked a different box than we did?
I want our country to be a place where we help each other, where we strive to find the best in each other, and in ourselves. It’s happened before, often after tragedy strikes, like a natural disaster or 9/11. But I want that America every day, a place where people pull together – no matter their race, their religion, their politics or their favorite sports team – when somebody needs help.
I want an America where we’re less envious of others, where we don’t resent the rich for their wealth, whether it was acquired through inheritance or hard work. I want an America where we all strive to do better, we all play by the same set of rules and where we never accept the status quo as our destiny. It’s happened before, usually in times of challenge or national crisis. We went from being the victims of a sneak attack in 1941 to the victors of a world war just four years later. And we put a man on the moon in the space of a decade, because we decided to.
That’s a great country, made up of smart, hard-working people.
I want an America where everybody who’s capable works for a living, and contributes to society by paying the taxes that support the things we all need, such as roads, schools and national defense.
I want a country where we resolve our arguments, not just battle to a draw. It’s happened before: The U.S. Constitution that’s endured for two-and-one-quarter centuries was forged as the result of a long argument that ended with a reasonable compromise. If we can do that to create our country, we can sure do it to fix the problems that vex our country.
I want a country where everyone respects our institutions of government, even if we don’t necessarily like the people who are currently our leaders. Those names will change, but the nation endures.
I want an America where every citizen appreciates what he’s been given, the gift of a democratic republic in which we all get a say in how the country runs, if only we take the time to participate. I want an America where every citizen respects the men and women who have sacrificed – for 236 years now – to win and keep that freedom. And I want a country where every citizen understands why so many other people in the world, envious of what we have, want to come here and get that for themselves, too.
That’s what I want our country to be. I hope that answers my conservative friend’s question.
Happy Independence Day.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist, and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.