As we listen carefully to the current criticisms of America, we should see them in the context of the wonderful features of our nation that continue to attract tens of thousands of the world’s best and brightest to become Americans and thus add to the material and cultural richness of our lives. We should not lose sight of, nor stop defending, the features of our society that have made us the Land of Opportunity even as we confront and strive to deal with our shortcomings. Those motivated by making more money and those motivated by serving and doing good to others enjoy the incentives for both in our free enterprise system. We make money by serving others, by creating better things and services for the benefit of our fellow man.
Our rights to make our own decisions and speak our minds are protected by our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Our property and commitments (contracts) are protected by the Rule of Law. Indeed, our history is not without sin, far from it. Slavery was practiced almost from the beginning of time, and our new nation shamefully participated in the practice for almost the first hundred years of its existence. Discriminatory laws and practices replaced slavery for many decades beyond the end of slavery. Though all Americans now enjoy the equal protection of the law, the uninformed prejudices of some persevere. Our culture of mutual caring that is nurtured by our capitalist economic system and the values taught by all major religions, continue to make progress towards shrinking and isolating bigots. But we have a ways to go. We have engaged in wars that are not justified by our defense and that are inconsistent with our values. In this area our economic incentives are perverse.
Our freedom to speak out when we see wrong and to praise what is good are critical to preserving what is good and fixing what is not. The “cancel culture” crowd seem more intent on tearing America down than building it up by fixing its weaknesses. The current cancerous attacks on our freedom to speak out and debate the important issues of our day in the name of political correctness risks undermining our progress: “America’s Jacobin moment”. This is not to say that we should not strive to address our fellow Americans politely “What is wrong with PC?”. But if we become afraid to express our views and concerns honestly, we lose the ability to understand one another and build mutually satisfactory compromises. “Do we really need free speech?”.
So on this celebration of our Declaration of Independence and the birth of our nation let’s commit ourselves to preserving what has made us great, which includes the ability to freely criticize what is not so great, and to admit and learn from our mistakes and to work at becoming better still: freer, responsible for our own lives, and more compassionate toward others.