Freedom in all its Flawed Greatness

By: Pete Zubof
Sitting at my in-laws’ house this 4th of July weekend, we went the usual full twelve rounds of political conflict.  I, as the resident conservative, was able to take a contrary position on nearly every issue, including the entirely apolitical question “Is Disney World really the happiest place on earth?”  “No” was my answer, in case you were wondering.  We had these fierce political (and philosophical) conflicts in the traditional American manner, over burgers and beer.  In a microcosm, this ability to disagree dramatically and then hug it out in the end really represents what is great in America.  It is this freedom that we really celebrate on Independence Day.

As we all know, there is certainly no lack of topics to take sides on with regards to American politics these days.  There are the old standbys, like abortion rights and Obamacare (or should it be called the Affordable Care Act…debate).  Then there are the new conflicts: Should drones be allowed to deliver pizza?  Is the word “Redskins” a racial slur?  For every point these days, it seems there is a counterpoint with no real sign of meeting in the middle.

Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you happen to live on, we can probably all agree, as Americans, that the past several years have been an exercise in frustration.  Political gridlock has become the norm, litigation has replaced negotiation, and overall satisfaction with our elected leaders has reached an all-time low.  Yet, despite these setbacks, something amazing happens in this country each and every day: Life goes on.

When times are good, we like to celebrate the genius of the political system that our founding fathers created.  Yet the true genius of our system may not really emerge until everything appears, on the surface, to be going wrong.  You see, despite a tepid economy and polarizing political rancor, the Constitution still works.  Its genius rests in its resiliency.  That resiliency is demonstrated daily based not on any specific or measurable event but on the lack thereof.

Despite our frustrations and annoyances, our challenges and disappointments, life for most Americans tends to go on relatively uninterrupted.  We wake up each morning and go about our business without fear of civil unrest or political coup.  This relative peace may seem inconsequential, yet consider that, since the year 1900, fewer than a dozen countries in the world have experienced no violent upheaval in their political system, which puts the United States in a relatively elite club.

So, in the grand scheme of things, life is pretty good on this 4th of July as it always is in America.  I fully expect that the government will stay intact long enough for me to make it to the next family debate session (on Rosh Hashanah; I’ll be talking to you then).  The President will leave office, like most Presidents do, after his term expires, and we will go on grumbling…but grumbling peacefully.

In the Navy, we have a saying, “A bitching sailor is a happy sailor.”  So it goes for all of us Americans.  If we have time to complain, to debate, and to argue, it’s because we live in one of the most stable societies in modern history.  The economy will turn around and some issues will be settled while new ones will arise, yet America will trundle on.  So in this Independence Day season, enjoy your summer BBQs, fierce family debates and all.  Celebrate the fact that the Constitution provides a deliberately vague, beautifully resilient framework that makes us unique, exceptional, and enduring.


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