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American Independence Day – Take a Step Back

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Today is July 4th, American Independence Day. COVID-19 has muted celebrations. So, maybe this would be a good time to take a step back and consider the state of the union.

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Two hundred and thirty-three years ago, you set some exceptional goals for yourselves, and ratified these into your Constitution. Have you achieved and sustained these goals? Perhaps today is a good day for reflection rather than celebration.

Since I was born, I have lived in America’s shadow, first in post-war Britain, but mainly just over the border in Canada. For most of my nearly seventy years, I have looked up to the United States. I have cherished its spirit, ambition, progress and resilience. Not a perfect union, but pretty good. Not without challenges, but moving in the right direction. Blessed by an enormous wealth creation engine after World War Two and mostly decent governance, America inspired me.

Today, not so much. We – your neighbors and friends – have witnessed your economic, social and institutional decline beyond all expectations. We are confused and hurt. As we look at the United States on its 244th birthday, what are we supposed to think? What happened to American exceptionalism?

Don’t blame Trump. He is just a symptom. Your government became dysfunctional long before he arrived. Your social divides between black and white were never fully bridged. Your hollowed out middle class has cried out for years, while your coastal elites and their media just sought perfection without them. Within your fragmented culture, you have stopped communicating.

American Independence Day – Moving Forward

It’s time to turn off cable news and deactivate your social media for a few hours. Sit and think about how you personally can contribute to the renewal of American exceptionalism. It’s not just about voting or demonstrating. You need to get beyond the memes, tropes and slogans.

You won’t get your solutions from your current political parties. You won’t get them from social media, especially if the Russians and Chinese have their way. You need to re-learn how to have generative conversations with people who are not in your bubble. Solutions will emerge, if you let them.

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