I'm a big old Fourth of July Fan. I'm a sucker for the fireworks and the festivities; the BBQs and the bands; the little kids all decked out in their red-white-and-blue (mine still say I "owe them" for the matching sailor suits I made them wear one 4th of July when they were 5 and 2!) and the heartfelt expressions of patriotism that are part of our heritage as Americans.
"We hold these truths to be self evident ..."
"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ..."
"Liberty and justice for all ..."
When I was in third grade I won a 4th of July essay contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution. “The Land I Love Is America” was the title and it was, to my nine-year old self, a VERY big deal to get up on the stage in an auditorium over in Highland Park and read my essay out loud into an honest-to-goodness microphone in front of a whole lot of grown-ups. “The land I love is America,” I wrote, “because in America there is liberty and justice for all.”
I was very clear about what was best about America then and I still am -- though viewed through decades of hindsight I am struck by the naiveté of the nine year old who believed that liberty and justice for all was a fait accompli rather than a work in progress!
I wrote last year on this blog about the personal significance this date has for me (it's the anniversary of my coming out) and reflected on the "work in progress" this Episcopal Church continues to be as it strives toward its commitment to respect the dignity of every human being -- and how we fell short of that at General Convention 2006 with the passage of B033.
This year my reflections are about the "work in progress" we are as a nation ... and the sad, sobering realization that we have taken a giant step backwards in our commitment to "all created equal" and "liberty and justice for all" with the commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence for the crime of perjury.
From a Letter to the Editor in today's NYTimes:
"With the Libby commutation, Mr. Bush has declared his own Independence Day: he will do what he wants, not what the country expects from its leader."
And there you have it. How do we explain to the kids decked out in their red-white-and-blue today -- waving their flags along parade routes and scarfing down hot dogs and potato salad -- that Paris Hilton served time and Scooter Libby didn't?
How do we account for a president who believes that as "the decider" he can decide to abandon the core American values he swore to preserve and protect in order to protect instead the secrets and the privilege of his consistently corrupt administration?
How do we explain away the lies that led to the war in Iraq, the rejection of the Geneva Convention and the institutionalization of executive privilege that is antithetical to that which Jefferson & Adams et al committed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to all those many 4th of Julys ago?
And -- most personally for me today with a son in Kirkuk -- how do we explain to our kids in Iraq that the core American values they put their lives on the line to defend every single freakin' day are so cavalierly sacrificed in the interest of political expediency by the Commander in Chief who sent them into harm's way? How I wish I could go back to having to explain the red-white-and-blue sailor suits!
But that was then and this is now. And on this Fourth of July 2007 I turn where I just about always turn -- to the Prayer Book -- for language to express my hopes, my fears and my prayers for this nation and for this world.Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn; Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen