The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 3, 2014

Celebrate, contemplate, participate in independence

Why it matters: America's independence only lives with constant evaluation of our principles and participation in our democratic institutions


The Mankato Free Press

---- — While the Fourth of July remains one of the most justifiably celebrated days of American history, our country’s founders wouldn’t want celebration without contemplation.

The founders knew the nature of American independence from Great Britain had the best chance of surviving as an evolving state of affairs rather than a static one. As a result, they built the American independence around principles, documents and laws with the idea that things can and should change. They decided a representative government based on democratic principles would be the best form to help society evolve into one that preserved life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Each year the America system offers challenges to those principles. Some emanate from the three branches of government. Some challenges come from the people themselves. Most are debatable.

Our Supreme Court offers many of the highest-profile challenges or, depending on your point of view, preservations to the ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Do women have more liberty now that the Supreme Court has said employers with religious objections are not required to offer preventive health care in the form of contraception under the Affordable Care Act? Or are the corporations as persons more free for release from the requirement? There’s plenty to debate.

The Supreme Court has ruled wealthy individuals should not lose their liberty to donate as much as they want to political campaigns, while some argue this denies the liberty of a corrupt-free system to those who have no such monetary influence.

The executive branch has offered its own challenges or preservations to our independence as a society. The president has chosen to loosen enforcement of some immigration laws while his political opponents in Congress object to what they see as an undue power grab by the executive branch.

Some argue a House of Representatives that continues to delay and stall on major budget requests by the executive are denying citizens the happiness of good roads, a balanced budget and food for the hungry.

The people themselves can act to challenge or preserve our independence. The very essence of those decisions can best be exercised at the ballot box, or increasingly, the referendum box. On this there is a mixed picture as some parts of our country have voter turnout of 30 percent while others have 90 percent.

Clearly, those who choose not to participate should be a concern for us all who consider the state of our independence and our pursuit of a good life.

In the end, our independence from general oppression or an onerous government is only preserved to the extent we are willing to consider the importance of the pursuits and act accordingly.

Participation is as important as celebration when it comes to preserving our independence.