Birthdays are for celebration and reflection. So, while celebrating our nation's birthday, I'm taking a moment for a little reflection.
I invite you to join me.
First, for purists (and "fake news" fans), let's get this out of the way: July 2 should probably be America's Independence Day since it was on that day in 1776 the Continental Congress voted to create a nation by leaving Great Britain; July 4 was the day a written document, a Declaration of Independence, was approved.
But, hey, either way, we're 242 years old. Cue the hot dogs. Watch the fireworks.
And, look, I know there are reasons to question unrestrained celebration of country these days. Chief among them, in my world, is angst over the guy in the White House, how he got there, how long he might stay, and the white-hot anger among so many of his supporters directed at media in what has become a national tug-of-war over truth and public trust.
It is cliché to assert we're a nation divided.
You can pick your issue – social justice, income inequality, politics, race, guns, immigration, education by zip code, etc. – and feel the wrath.
Any columnist or newspaper comments reader can tell you there's a level of venom aimed at points of view, individuals featured in the news, and any voice for any cause, that is (in my decades of journalism) unmatched in poisonous tone.
Of course, disagreement isn't new. It's fundamental to democracy. And targeted hatred has always been with us. Just not as widespread, full-faced, or public as now.
Yet here we are. Still standing. Still capable of celebration.
And why? Because there are those among us worthy of celebrating.
Because while our government chose to inflict harm on children by enforcing a policy of separating them from their parents at our southern border, Downingtown teen Katherine Commale was honored internationally due to the fact that since she was 5 she has raised money for mosquito bed netting in Africa and elsewhere to protect children from malaria.
Because even in Pennsylvania's divided government with its usually useless, democracy-defying legislature, there are sometimes stories of triumph such as enactment of a long-stalled measure to better protect elderly and disabled adults from abuse. It just was signed into law thanks to the persistence of a Delco mom and the tenacity of columnist Ronnie Polaneczky pushing readers to push lawmakers.
The commonality here is we know of these inspirational stories because of a profession that nearly one-quarter of Americans (Quinnipiac poll, June) view as "the enemy of the people."
My point is not to downplay the significant challenges in so many aspects of American life. It's to remember there is more to us than our troubles. More to our discourse than its incivility. More to our humanity than examples of its absence.
And more to media than "fake news."
We make mistakes. Everyone does. We are flawed. Every institution is.
But try addressing the ills of a city, state, or nation without a free, unfettered, and unintimidated press, and see how far you get.
Or let local, state, and federal governments act on their own without media oversight, and see how many of those unalienable American rights declared 242 years ago slip further than, for many citizens, they already have.
So, go ahead. Celebrate our nation by waving flags, watching parades, and rightly honoring first responders, law enforcement, the armed services, and veterans.