SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 9, 2013

Column: A new birth of American freedom

A Fourth of July Gallup Poll presented an interesting picture of our country.

Americans overwhelmingly express pride in being American, yet the division is wide and deep about what being an American means.

Eighty-five percent of respondents say they are extremely or very proud to be an American.

Yet, 71 percent say they think the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be disappointed how the country has turned out.

Only 15 percent of conservatives and 12 percent of Republicans say the signers of the Declaration would be “pleased” with how the country has turned out. But, 41 percent of liberals and 42 percent of Democrats say the signers of the Declaration would be pleased.

Clearly, there are very different ideas between the two parties and between conservatives and liberals about what truths the signers of the Declaration felt were self-evident and what exactly rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” means.

That’s not to say that there was unanimity of opinion even among those who signed the Declaration of Independence.

To state the obvious, there are signatures affixed to the bottom of the Declaration of men who saw no inherent contradiction in a nation founded on the idea of liberty in which slavery was legal.

My guess is that the 85 percent who today express pride in being an American do so because they believe this is a free and moral country. We all agree, I think, on these principles.

But, like the difference of opinion about slavery two centuries ago, we have huge disconnects among large parts of our population about what a free and moral country is about.

Anyone who follows what I write can guess where I stand.

It is hard for me to believe that many in our country see no contradiction in believing that freedom can be an American ideal while half of Americans live in households getting some sort of government benefits.

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