Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Independence Day

Over the last week, my hometown has made national news twice. Both stories were minor in the grand, national-media scheme of things, but they did show up on at least a few national news sites.

The first event happened a week ago on the grounds of the state capitol after workers finished installing a monument with the Ten Commandments engraved on it. Early the next morning, a car drove into the six-foot monolith and knocked it down, shattering it on the sidewalk.

The second event happened around 2:30 a.m. this past Saturday at a downtown nightclub called the Power Ultra Lounge. A gun battle broke out between different groups, and 28 people came away injured. No one was killed, but several of the wounded are still in area hospitals.

Both of these incidents are evidence of disunity -- of a breaking down of community. But these aren't the usual battles between different segments of society. They’re not conflicts between “tribes.” They’re conflicts within tribes.

The man who allegedly knocked down the monument wasn’t some hot-headed atheist or left-wing radical. According to news reports, he’s a self-proclaimed born-again Christian who's very serious about his faith.

The gunplay at the rap concert was apparently a continuation of a lethal feud that’s been playing out between two rival groups over the last six or eight months. Despite their enmity, both sides come from the same neighborhoods, the same socio-economic group, and the same subculture.

I see this same thing mirrored across America these days -- internecine conflicts within political groups, religious groups, and even families. We've always struggled to get along with those who are not like us. Now we're even struggling to get along with those who are like us.

It makes me wonder if we’ve reached another point in our history where we have to test the bonds that hold us together as a nation. After all, without community, there is no America. There's no great "American Experiment." There's no American Dream.

As I write this on the Fourth of July -- 241 years after we declared ourselves a nation -- do we still want to be The United States of America? Do we still want to be a nation at all? Do we still feel enough collective will to keep the experiment going?

I hope so, but I know it won't come from the top. And it won't rise up from the bottom, either. It'll have to come from the only place true change ever happens -- from within.

So here's my hope for my native land on its birthday. That we look around and recognize once again that one of the best things we have going for us as a nation is each other.

We the People.

Beats the hell out of Civil War 2.0.

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