America is great, but it can be better

Published 4:16 pm Wednesday, July 4, 2018

If Beaufort County is any indication, patriotism is alive and well in these United States of America. Yesterday, Americans throughout the United States celebrated 242 years of American independence with parades, fireworks and time with family.

Today, the parades have rolled, the picnics are ant food and the fireworks that lit up the sky have faded. While it is always a good thing to reflect upon and rejoice in the greatness of our country, on the Fifth of July, every American should ask: what can we do better?

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Stop letting politics divide us. Aside from the years leading up to the American Civil War, our country is currently in the midst of one of the most divisive periods in its history. Where there was once rational and thoughtful debate, our national conversation has descended into mudslinging and name calling, with loud and angry voices receiving the most attention. If we look past politics, we will see that our commonalities are far greater than our differences.
  • Demand transparency from our government. The most powerful safeguard of the American way of life is a well-informed populace. Pay attention to what is happening in the halls of power. From Raleigh to Washington, D.C., American citizens have the right to know and have a voice in the actions of their government.
  • Fight to take money out of the political equation. Every year, millions upon millions of dollars trade hands to support political candidates. Candidates should not be elected based on fundraising ability, but rather on the good works they will do for the communities they serve. They should not be beholden to special interests. Take the time to follow the money and the votes.
  • Exercise compassion for the poor and downtrodden. Don’t turn away from the weak and the weary. Take every opportunity to lift up your fellow Americans, offering a hand up in any way you can. Remember that the American Dream is not just for the privileged and the powerful. It is for every American.

In his role as a television news anchor on the HBO series “The Newsroom,” Jeff Daniels’ character is asked for his opinion on why America is the greatest country in the world. His answer was essentially, “It’s not.” However, he followed the thought up with, “We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men; men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one — America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

The good news is, we still can be the greatest country in the world. But the work starts right here at home with a kind word, a thought-provoking question or a helping hand. So ask yourself today, and every day, “What can I do to make my town, my state and my country better?”