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Remember why the Fourth deserves celebration

As the United States celebrates its  237th anniversary as a nation, the American people find themselves deeply divided over the right course for the future.

That is OK. That is how things are supposed to work.

We are a free people, so we express differing opinions and opposing viewpoints. The world reserves unanimity in public thought for miserable places like North Korea and Kyrgyzstan.

The Founding Fathers of the United States chose a different course in setting the foundation for what Abraham Lincoln later called "a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

The Founders cemented their belief in the unalienable right of all people to life, liberty and happiness given to them at birth by their Creator.

"That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence.

What a concept.

Eleven years later, many of the men who signed that document and other civic leaders from the 13 former colonies gathered in Philadelphia once again to institute a federal government to secure those rights with the consent of the public.

The arguments were long and occasionally fierce, because the men knew that the future of a continent rested on the framework they set. They had serious divisions between regions, and small states correctly feared that large states would overwhelm them under a federal government.

In the end, a bicameral Congress and the division of the power among three branches of government allayed those fears and set up a system to settle regional and other political differences civilly.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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," they wrote.

They gave the world its first constitutional government, later completed with a Bill of Rights the guarantees necessary to protect individual liberty.

Nearly 226 years later, events again test that Constitution. Public opinion polls find a majority of the public has lost faith in Congress, the president and the Supreme Court. The division between rural America and its cities, as well as the divide between the coastal areas and the heartland, strain the unity of this nation.

The hubris of liberals, when they assumed control of the executive branch of the government in addition to their control of the legislature, widened the gap between conservatives and liberals.

Passage of Obamacare without Republican input doomed that legislation. Three years later, the law remains as unpopular as the Stamp Act.

Arguments rage over the administration's attempt to override the separation of powers and push the boundaries of executive power into new territory.

Progressives are fuming over people's attempts to thwart their agenda. Conservatives see this agenda as trampling on the rights of the governed.

These divides among people are natural. The Constitution allowed for a way to debate and settle them.

Yes, settling arguments this way is slower than settling arguments the authoritarian way - without regard to what other people think.

That is in fact the genius of the American system and the source of its superiority.

Too many in Washington are impatient, even contemptuous, of limits on their power. Too many voters don't guard their liberty fiercely enough.

 


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