If I have one wish for the citizens of our country on this, the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, it’s this: Vote.
There’s a lot contained in that wish.
I wish for an informed populace. Too many people have no idea who serves on the Supreme Court, or can name a writer of the Federalist Papers. Take time to educate yourself on history and issues.
(You think you know this stuff? Take the Civics Practice Test from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. I hope you can go 20 for 20.)
I wish for civil argument. Politics is about horse-trading and compromise. Listen to others and take their views into account. Perhaps they won’t change your mind, but in an era in which we tend to listen just to people we agree with, it’s valuable to hear opposing views — even if just to sharpen your own thoughts.
I wish for civic engagement. You think the system is rigged? You think that you’re going to stand on the sidelines, arms folded, since your candidate or issue lost? Then don’t complain when the system doesn’t change.
The Founding Fathers, far from the secular saints they’re considered today, were all flawed human beings. In many of their beliefs they were men of their time (though aware enough of this fact to allow for change). They also bickered and disagreed and lashed out at one another, and probably wouldn’t recognize themselves in the deification they receive from their purported followers.
But they literally put their lives on the line to create this representative democracy. Had the American Revolution failed, Washington, Jefferson and the others probably would have been put to death.
So enjoy this Independence Day. Read the Declaration; peruse the Constitution; dip into the Federalist Papers. And four months from now, on Election Day, exercise your right — and your privilege — to vote. Wishes are nice, but it takes work to make a country.