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Published July 03 2013

Forum editorial: Our messy, beautiful democracy

Fireworks shows and burgers on the grill, to be sure. Sun and lakes, go for it. Family and friends, you bet.

The Fourth of July, our nation’s celebration of independence, has meaning so profound that Americans in their summer holiday revelry sometimes miss it – or at least don’t take time to ponder it. But the United States, that grand experiment, remains a light to the world, despite the divisions and raucous debates that seem to rend the nation’s fabric.

Rend away. The tapestry will hold; the tears will be repaired. The U.S. is strong, but not exclusively because of military might or economic power. This nation’s ultimate strength is rooted in the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the enduring guidance of the Constitution. Whenever our structures of governance show a crack or two – as has been routine throughout our history – the fixes can be found in our foundational documents.

Of course, the political system and courts might take some time to cobble together fixes that work and last. After all, the machinery of representative government is a creation of human beings, and human beings often are motivated by self-interest and greed. It regularly takes the power and nobility of the founders’ sentiments to bring the nation back to the right path.

The founders understood that the United States would always be a work in progress. A restless and energetic people – informed by a world-changing governance creed – would never be satisfied with the status quo; would never rest quietly on the laurels of history because the new nation was making history every day.

We still are.

Sometimes it seems the nation is careening toward hell in a handcart. It’s not. Still, Americans wring their hands, gnash their teeth and conclude the U.S. is doomed because they don’t like the current president, or they are disgusted with the partisan gridlock in Congress, or they reject changing social mores. So what else is new?

The political, social and economic churn that is the United States works itself out decade after decade because of the wisdom of the founders’ work more than 230 years ago. They were on to something new and revolutionary. It worked. It’s still working in the beautifully tumultuous and messy manner envisioned by those astonishing 18th-century intellects.

Keep them in mind as fireworks light the sky tonight.


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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.