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Forum editorial: Founders gave us blueprint

Americans are a contentious lot. They scrap and scrabble over most everything. In politics, they draw lines, point figures, assign malicious motivations to adversaries, fight like hell to get elected to public office, and then brutally criticize public service.

They cast a jaundiced eye on institutions of government. They instinctively mistrust big business. They honor the armed services but resist foreign entanglements. They savage big media but demand the press call government to account. They scream about states’ rights but line up with their hands out when Uncle Sam comes to the rescue in natural disasters. They decry government spending but fight to keep “their” defense plant or military base open.

A mish-mash of contradictions, we Americans are. A work in progress that is never done, as one European observer put it more than a 150 years ago. We are a driven people who cherish a work ethic that makes the rest of the world look lazy. We strive for economic equality and societal perfection knowing that neither can be fully attained.

As Americans today celebrate the 238th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, we look back on a history that, at every turn, reflects the unique American experience.

It was nearly lost 150 years ago in a Civil War that ripped the nation apart. The healing took a long time. It’s still going on, some analysts believe. But the lesson of that war has not been forgotten. No matter how deep our disagreements, how emotional our arguments, how uncompromising our hearts, we no longer resort to arms or secession to settle disagreements. No matter how fractured our politics and society seem, we have developed the means and nurtured the temperament to solve the most intractable problems – even if it takes an interminably long time to deal with the challenges that divide us – and even when extremists appropriate the debate.

There is no better characteristic in the American spirit than our embrace of new ideas, however uncomfortable some might be. The nation’s founders – the men who put life and liberty on the line when they signed the declaration – were visionaries. They were creating a truly new nation, based on principles unwelcome in the old world and untested in the new. Their inspiration would be the crucible from which would emerge a nation unlike any other.

It worked. It’s not perfect, but no human construct is. The United States is, however, the world’s last best hope. The founders knew what they were creating. They knew it would forever be a work in progress.

So today, amid lake parties, fireworks and grilled brats and burgers, we Americans celebrate our independence – not merely as a day but primarily as a way to live and a way to govern. We acknowledge the wisdom of the founders. We embrace the responsibility to preserve, protect and enhance what they gave us.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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