On July 4, Americans rightly celebrate their country’s accomplishments since 1776. While living in the United States and witnessing the countless debates on cable news networks, it is tempting to think that America’s best days are behind it, that the American dream is slowly fading away. But we should think again.
America is known for its inherent optimism, its belief in exceptionalism, and its committment to liberty. When the Thirteen Colonies decided to declare independence from the greatest power of the day (Great Britain), the revolutionary ideas held by the Founding Fathers were imbedded deep into the identity of the country, as was the notion that revolution had been the correct and noble choice.
Now, some 235 years later, the attachment to the ideals of revolution remain as vital and strong as ever. With the debt ceiling debate likely to reach a crescendo in the next few weeks, the central question has become whether the American dream will play as vital a role in the lives of future generations. The slow recovery, the rising deficit, and the growing weight of the national debt have polarized the political debate around the role and size of government.
The additional burden of two seemingly endless wars and a NATO-led operation in Libya has only added to the tide of pessimism. Political dialogue in Washington has gone quiet and there are doubts it can be made to be meaningful again.
Yet, a closer look at where America currently stands suggests the American dream is far from over. Yes, the political climate is polarized, but there is still a free flow of ideas, quite possibly greater than in any other nation in the world. The 2012 election cycle is beginning and the marketplace of ideas will be open to the American voter. If history is an indicator, America will gradually tackle the problems and the issues facing them.
Americans are right to be optimistic. They should be heartened by the innovation and technology that has come from American industry. They should be encouraged by respected educators like Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children Zone, pushing for educational reforms and innovation. The current debate about entitlement reform is mostly about keeping the programs going, not eliminating them. The discourse around defense and conflict in the world revolves around making the world safer and less prone to new conflicts, not isolation and resignation.
True, the approaches and the views differ, but the fundamentals revolve around keeping the American dream alive. This is why our neighbours and friends to the south have every reason to celebrate. Happy Fourth of July.