On our 244th Independence Day, Americans find themselves in a pot of boiling rage. Whether along racial or political lines, our country has not been more divided than since the Civil War. This rage, stoked by propaganda channels and social media, has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, an invisible and deeply frustrating enemy, where our only immediate weapons are masks and patience.
But Americans are not a patient people. Our impatience has helped us become a great nation. Impatience for freedom. Impatience to abolish slavery. Impatience to improve our standard of living. And the list of targets of our impatience goes on. But we have come to a point where our impatience is not as useful as it once was.
Over a century and a half ago, America suffered a bloody civil war. Even today we see the scars from that conflict, including arguments over Confederate statues. While contentious history makes great reading, the reality was not great living. That’s a lesson we must heed.
Americans have endured hardships before for the greater good. We fought Nazis, communists and fascists. Today, our primary enemy is less-well defined. Some say it’s a virus. But to be honest, it’s not. To quote the comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.”
Our emotions raging in frustration, our desire to blame, and yes, our desire to hate, have not served us well. We must take a breath and remember what is important: our health, our family, our community and our country. The well-being of these are not served by conflict, but by cooperation and large, almost painful doses, of patience. Rage is easy. Patience is hard.
In the last few months, I have often thought of the British motto which adorned many signs during World War II: “Keep Calm and Carry On,” wise words from our mother country. This message of quiet persistence carries a strength stronger than rage, and more patriotic than mere flag waving. As citizens, we are the threads which hold our country together. While we may fray a little, we must not rip ourselves apart. That is my hope.
Happy Independence Day.