It’s just about that time again when Americans don the red, white, and blue to celebrate July 4th, otherwise known as Independence Day. But in a day and age when our democracy is threatened by the likes of Trump and the excesses of capitalism have torn our sense of community and the common good apart; I think it’s high time that we celebrate July 4th as Interdependence Day!
I think that, for too long, the mantra of personal liberty and individualism has eroded important institutions and bedrocks of our society and nation. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are NOT perfect instruments – hence why we have a constitutional amendment process, federalism, and the checks and balances of the separation of powers.
The Constitution is primarily concerned with the establishment of government and what government can do. It is very much dressed in the sentiments of collectiveness, community, and the common good. As the Preamble reads:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Bill of Rights is more concerned with the rights of individuals within the collective whole, i.e. the right to free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right to vote. But these rights are not absolute. They are balanced against the interests of the State (or the collective whole).
The tension between these two documents is, sorry to get nerdy, akin to the discussion that Rea has with Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights exist to balance against the excesses of the other. But for too long, like I’ve said above, we’ve let the narrative lean to heavily in favor of individual rights (take gun rights for example).
So I think July 4th should not only be a time when we celebrate how America gained its independence from Great Britain, but also how people had to come together, despite all the fault lines and regional divisions, to forge a new nation and set us on the path toward a more perfect union.