By Nathan Rice
The smell of hamburgers and hotdogs will drift throughout Hampton Roads today as Americans celebrate Independence Day. Today is the day we remember the founding of our nation, so people, homes and businesses will be dressed in red, white, and blue. Parties and festivals will be held by cities, churches, civic organizations, and families. The Fourth of July is a pretty big day in our country.
One nice thing about the Fourth of July is how it seems to bring Americans together. An aisle doesn’t separate those watching fireworks by political affiliation. People of different ethnicities, faiths and cultures will gather together to “Ohh and ahh” at exploding particles of light in the night sky. It’s one of those very rare times when it seems that Americans are united as a people.
I wish it would stay like this, but I know that it is unlikely, because the division between groups of people in America seems to be growing wider every single day. People who stood shoulder to shoulder watching a firework display often return to separating themselves by politics, religion, ethnicity, and more as soon as the alarm clock goes off on July 5.
It’s a shame that we return to being separated so quickly, because the Fourth of July provides a glimpse, even if a very small one, of what we might be able to become if we all stopped yelling at each other for a moment.
I understand there are differences of opinion in our nation. We are a diverse group of people who often see things differently and have varied views on nearly everything. Differences of opinion are not the problem. The problem is how we handle our differences.
Could we start by dropping the names we call each other and pledge to treat everyone with respect? Have we really grown so callous as a nation that we can no longer treat those with opposing views respectfully? We will never all think the same, but couldn’t we agree to have civil debates rather than venomous arguments where the opposing side is continually degraded?
Could we also try to understand, even if we don’t agree with, other points of view? For example: Some people hold up the American flag, chant “U-S-A,” and refuse to acknowledge that their country has ever done anything wrong. Others burn the flag and refuse to see that America has contributed some great things to the world.
Like any country, the United States has scars from things done throughout history. Our country has sanctioned some evil deeds, and poor decisions have been made by our elected leaders. America is still far from a perfect nation. Nevertheless, our country has accomplished some great things, and there are things for which we really can be proud to be an American.
I hope we become more united as a nation this year, but it will only begin when we start treating each other with respect and try to understand the opinions of others. We can’t change the entire nation overnight, but we can change ourselves, and changing ourselves is the first step in changing our nation.
Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at email@example.com.