"A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle." George William Curtis, prolific writer of the 19th Century and president of the National Civil Service Reform League under President Grant, was absolutely right.
America is about an ideal: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Now that's what freedom is all about. What a great gift to live in a nation where everyone is as entitled to getting a life as I am. I've always believed that our founding fathers were way ahead of their time. As I was mixing the dry rub for the ribs that we're going to throw on the grill later, I wondered if they were even ahead of our time, if not ahead of all time.
I wondered this because the ideal is far from reality. Sure, it may be reality for some, but for so many Americans, the "American Dream" is out of reach, and appears to be slipping further and further away.
How can this be happening?
Our founding fathers recognized that nothing worth having comes easily. That's why they fought for their independence from England. They weren't just acting out of greed and power-mongering. There were fundamental beliefs growing very clear to these men who lived and worked for a power-hungry nation across the Atlantic---a nation who regarded these men as nothing more property to be exploited.
Fast forward. Present day. There is still inequality, injustice, poverty, infighting, exploitation, slavery, abuse, and a myriad of ills infecting our nation today. Some Americans--far too many for my taste--even suggest that our ideal has run its course, that it doesn't work, if it ever worked at all. Some Americans even suggest that we continue to relinquish our God-given liberty in exchange for that happiness we no longer have.
Perhaps the problem isn't the ideal itself; perhaps the problem is that we don't really understand what the ideal really is.
There are two elements at play in this ideal.
...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. ALL MEN. I remember learning long ago that my rights end where another's rights begin. When any person, group or organization--and this especially includes our elected officials--infringe upon these rights, they are contradicting the ideal upon which this nation was founded.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The Pursuit of Happiness. THE PURSUIT. We have a right to life, a right to freedom, and a right to pursue those things that will make our lives what we want them to be. We don't, on the other hand, have the right to that end result.
When these two elements are combined, it becomes clear that American citizens are expected to automatically hold themselves to a higher standard. Also, in case you missed it, woven into our national ideal is GOD. Those who fear God understand this ideal at its very core: I have the right to the freedom to live righteously, and I must give my neighbor the freedom to do the same. Our national ideal is a call to live a life of virtue, and that within living that life of virtue we attain the happiness, which we have the God-given right to pursue. THAT'S the real "American Dream".
I already stated that our founding fathers penned an ideal that might be too lofty for humanity to achieve; but does that mean that we never try to attain it? Its the whole point of dreaming.