By Rabbi Elchanan Poupko
Next week, as we celebrate our nation’s independence on July Fourth, things will be very different than in past years. A notoriously divisive primary season has shown the polarization of American society and how divided we can become. This divide is not growing smaller; it is growing wider with every day that goes by.
It’s important we take a moment to remember what brings us together, rather than what brings us apart.
Does this mean diversity is not a good thing? Of course not. Americans are a diverse, and perhaps even polarized, people. At the same time, it’s essential we remember that, after all, we are one people. We tend to focus on the “liberty and justice for all” or other parts of the Pledge of Allegiance, yet we should take the time – at least once a year – to focus our attention on the fact that we are “one nation.”
This is the source of our strength and a basic ingredient of our existence as a nation. Let’s do that. Let’s reflect with pride on what we have achieved as a collective; on how far the power of cooperation, harmony and unity can go, and allow us to proudly glimpse into a future that is even brighter, better and superior to what we have achieved thus far.
As Americans, we are all members of the first and oldest democracy in the modern age, leaders of the free world and the world’s greatest champion of religious freedom and human rights. We are all part of this great unparalleled and unprecedented historical phenomenon that would not be around anymore if not for us, and our hundreds of millions of fellow Americans.
We all make up this historical anomaly of a country that is both the most powerful yet most charitable, extraordinarily free and democratic, yet deeply religious, highly partisan while sharing profoundly strong common values, at the cutting edge of modernity while respecting so many old traditions, extraordinarily innovative and forward looking, with an incredible ability to retain our past and, now, an oil-rich country that is extraordinarily hardworking and creative.
Those are all things we do together. As a nation. We need to remember that and celebrate that unity.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said, “Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world, must first come to pass in the heart of America.”
Hoping for a better and more united world, we must do exactly that here at home.
July Fourth is a perfect opportunity to do that. It is a time to harness and prepare ourselves for a better and brighter future – together. It is an opportunity to remember that as much as we have to be proud of in our past, we have more to be proud of in the future.
God bless America.
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a writer, teacher and blogger. He lives with his wife in New York City.