On Independence Day

Ask not … Photo by bacondit.

I’m acutely uncomfortable with the militarism, overt and implied, that accompanies Independence Day. I do, however, have faith—in the sense of being sure of what I hope for—in government by the people, in freedom of speech and of the press, in the separation of Church and State, in not quartering soldiers in any house without the consent of the Owner. In the ugliest moments of U.S. politics, I worry that my fellow Americans don’t care much for our shared history, or even some of the basic principles that underlie our democracy. Yet we’re still muddling through, and I’d rather do what I can to make this a better, more just, more civil society than just throw up my hands and move to Canada.*

In that spirit, here’s a few lines from one of my favorite figures of American history, Abraham Lincoln, on the occasion of his second Inauguration. It seems appropriate for a nation divided, even if not by actual battle lines:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

The image accompanying this post is part of the winning entry for Studio 360’s Independence Day redesign challenge, and I really like it—it responds to John F. Kennedy’s famous imperative by suggesting things you can do for your country, and it includes teachers and judges alongside the more stereotypical soldier and policeman. It’s not often enough we’re reminded that you needn’t carry a weapon to serve your nation.

*This statement is subject to revision in the event that I get a job offer from a Canadian university.