Sunday, July 4, 2010

A pleasure to serve

On Friday I was discussing the Brazil-Netherlands match with some fellas at a bar in town. I was arguing that Kaka got selfish in the last ten minutes. My co-commentator retorted that the real reason Brazil lost was that the referees were biased in "all you favor." It was a "what do you mean, 'you people'?" moment about which laughs were had afterward. That's the difference in racism here. We can laugh about it. This was pointed out to me by a friend of mine recently.

Twelve score and four years ago, a group of rich land owners decided they didn't want to pay taxes to the British, or kiss British asses every time they wanted to make a move. They conjured up some rhetoric about liberty, inalienable rights, and equality (though some of them most assuredly believed in these notions through and through, those beliefs had rested largely inert for lack of utility) and stirred up an army of sorts. It's hard to know how fair this characterization of the causes of America's war for independence is. The constitution certainly does embody those ideas, to a certain extent. At that time, we had a sizable slave population and shared the continent with perhaps millions of indigenous people. There was certainly no dream, at that point, of an ethnically diverse people, peacefully coexisting. Extermination and/or enslavement was the order of the day. The constitution does seem to have catered for a reasonable pluralism when it comes to ideology and theology (the society may have been less tolerant than the legal writing).

The Romans dreamed of a republic from time to time. People had written about it for well over a century. We finally had one: A democratic republic. Today, we have an ethnically diverse population and our ideologies run the spectrum, as do our religions. The dream that we can coexist peacefully and prosperously is a bold one, historically speaking. The dream that we can find a functional degree of political unity is a bold one. The dream that tolerance and power sharing can be efficiently productive is a bold one. Whatever shapes the American dream has taken over the years, it has always been about a living, breathing society that would learn and grow. That we have done so for 234 years is no small achievement, and we ought to feel proud as a people on this day.

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