The July Fourth holiday heightens an appreciation of the remarkable events of last week, events that validate our forebears’ notion “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.”
Who could have imagined that in a little more than a week, we saw the very real hope of confederate battle flags coming down in the Deep South, flags that for many symbolize oppression and pain. The Supreme Court memorably affirmed the equal right of gay people nationwide to marry and enter into loving family commitments. The Court upheld the government’s commitment to provide health insurance for all Americans, health as an essential expression of life and equity. Nor should we forget the highest Court’s decision allowing independent commissions to draw legislative district lines, an important means to level the playing field by loosening the ability of political parties to gerrymander electoral districts.
Who could forget President Obama’s stirring eulogy at the Charleston services for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, recommitting to equal rights among races. In his early years, especially gleaned from his book Dream from my Father, the President was still trying to figure out who he was. When he was elected President, on matters of race he was very careful not to offend, to reassure people he was the President of everyone. Often he disappointed some of his most ardent supporters. In last week’s eulogy, he found his voice. He was comfortable in himself, part preacher, and, in weaving in policy matters, part politician. His moving authenticity arose from deep within him, inspiring many, wowing them and breathing 21st century vitality into the dreams of our country’s founders.
None of the gains made in recent days will be without challenges. We have already seen fires in half a dozen mostly black churches in the Deep South, some possibly by those who want to ennoble the days of slavery. Opponents of Obamacare are pledged to disable that key social legislation at every step, including cutting funds for Medicaid. Supporters of ACA will have to push for adjustments to make the law work better. Gay rights battles lie ahead as some individuals and groups raise legitimate objections on religious grounds, though no religious leader will be forced to marry gays if doing so violates religious tenets. Disputes must also be resolved on whether florists and photographers must provide services at gay weddings if in contravention of their religious beliefs.
On a slightly different note, Wednesday the President announced steps to reopen an embassy in Havana. Acknowledging continuing ideological differences with Cuba but asserting the failure of a half century’s political policies, he noted, “this is what change looks like.” Opponents, including Presidential candidate Marco Rubio and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said they’d work to cut funds for the embassy and vowed that Congress would never agree to compromise with Cuba or even approve any ambassadorial nominee. Virtually every gain achieved over time will have to be cemented with difficulty.
But, my oh my, there has been a lot to be pleased about on this July 4th, 2015. We have seen history in the making, though in the grand sweep of history, there is rarely the final word – or a final victory.
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