By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
This year, Independence Day will mark the 240th anniversary of our nation’s existence. She’s still rather young as far as countries go, but despite that, she has become something incredible: a two century long experiment in representative democracy and multiculturalism.
And as with any venture worth attempting, the path has not always been straight or easy to navigate. America the Beautiful began with lofty aspirations to be the “land of the free” where grit and determination were more important for success than pedigree.
But even the origin story of our country isn’t a simple one. For example, it was more than a decade after the signing of the Declaration of Independence that the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution — was ratified by our young government.
As an aside, it’s thanks to the rights guaranteed within the very first amendment that we are able to bring you the PRESS and PARADE each week. Though the majority of the world’s governments are democracies, few nations enjoy the level of press and speech freedoms that we Americans oftentimes take for granted.
Getting back on topic, though, this country has remained one of constant evolution. It took more than a decade to codify our personal freedoms within the Bill of Rights. Almost a century after we declared independence from England, several of our member states declared their independence from the Union, from us.
The Civil War ripped not only our nation apart, but even individual families, as brothers stood opposite each other on the battlefield. I can’t imagine the pain and fear that that four-year-long war inflicted upon our ancestors. It must have felt like the rending inflicted upon this land had caused a wound which would never heal. But we did heal, for the most part. It was a painful and protracted process — portions of which didn’t occur until well into the 20th Century — but again, our beautiful, robust nation grew and evolved.
That evolution still continues today.
We, as a nation, are still challenged by myriad issues that call on us to redefine what it means to be American. As individuals, we are challenged to re-evaluate our own internalized ideas about our country, our place within it, and the place of those beside us.
You can find evidence of those evolving conversations anytime you turn on the TV to watch the news. No matter the network you’ll find pundits opining about everything from racial, gender and LGBTQ equality, immigration, foreign policy, the balance of powers between our three branches of government, and more.
There are multiple debates being argued at once, with representatives from all sides shouting to be heard. As a result, it’s not hard to understand how someone could feel overwhelmed. Our country is divided, it would seem, and more so than ever before. There are fewer middle grounds on which to meet. We are at our breaking points. Something’s got to give, right?
I refuse to believe that. Why? Because for every negative news story, for every “gotcha” talking point blasted during the 24-hour news cycle, there is a story that illustrates yet another example of the best of us. One has only to look at the example set by the hundreds of people who patiently waited for hours to donate blood in the wake of the Orlando massacre.
We are greater than our differences. We are greater than our politics. We are greater than our fears. We are greater.
Our country has shown us this is true over and over again. So, as we gather with our family and friends this Fourth of July, fully stocked with fireworks and fiery barbecue grills, let’s keep that in mind. We have weathered 240 years of struggle, debate, bloodshed, celebration, life and laughter. And after every challenge, we emerge stronger, better and invariably American.
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