Every Independence Day, words and symbols from our Founders captivate me.
There is the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” adopted July 4th, 1776, by the Continental Congress.
There is the Great Seal of the United States, commissioned by the congress on July 4, 1776. One side of the seal features the motto e pluribus unum (out of many one), the stars and bars, and the American bald eagle supported only by “Virtue.” The other side features the Eye of Providence below the words Annuit Coeptis (He has favored our undertakings).
There is more, but you get the point.
The great irony to these inspirational words and symbols of liberty, virtue, and unity is the Founders who adopted them also approved slavery and ignored the rights of Native Americans and women.
Fortunately, the Constitution and Bill of Rights that sprung from the Declaration of Independence and the values expressed in the Great Seal wove a strong and virtuous national fabric that eventually freed slaves and gave rights to women and Native Americans as well as Irish, Chinese, and other immigrants who helped build our nation.
Perhaps it is that struggle to live up to our words and values that turns my thoughts to another fabric each Independence Day. It comes from Dolly Parton’s poignant song “Coat of Many Colors.” It’s a simple song about a poor girl with a coat sewn by her mother from a box of rags. As her mother sewed, she told Dolly the biblical story of Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors. For Dolly, the coat represented hard work, love, and devotion. It was far more than a bunch of rags.
Dolly’s song is a metaphor for the rough-hewn fabric of 20th Century America as our original national fabric, ripped by the Civil War and the Depression, was re-woven through hardship, hard work, and hardy devotion… by Americans of all colors and circumstances.
The 21st Century may be different. Vast sums of money supporting ever-more-divisive fights over political and social issues and 24/7 political and media personalities who prosper by inciting others to slash our national fabric pose risks. That plus dysfunctional government, eroding infrastructure, personal and governmental debt, and widening wealth gaps risk deep and dangerous tears.
The Bible warns us “to every thing there is a season.” Could this be the season where our strong and virtuous national fabric rips apart?
It’s every patriot’s duty to work hard and seek His favor to keep our Founder-stitched Coat of Many Colors far more than a bunch of rags.
» Bill Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.