July 10, 2014

Independence Day

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

On July 4th, 1776, under the lead of John Adams and other great Founding Fathers, the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer a part of the British Empire. Despite the heavy costs of the Revolutionary War, the sovereignty of the United States was finally achieved.  Our founding statesmen succeeded in their pursuit of freedom from a distant British King who governed the people of America through inequality, disregard, and lack of representation.

Since our birth as a sovereign nation, our country experienced numerous triumphs as well as tribulations. We reached across vast oceans to battle against totalitarianism and oppression in two World Wars. We struggled and ached through the painful Great Depression. We clashed internally over the enslavement of a people, and fought a Civil War that nearly broke our country into pieces. We cried out as one nation, watching the World Trade Center crumble from its great heights. Through each of these conflicts no matter what the damage, one thing remained constant – the “we.” We resolved to be better, to do better, and to help others to be their best as well. This resolution to be the beacon of light and hope was lit by our founding fathers who bled in the hopes that every man, woman, and child would one day have the freedom to pursue their own American Dream.

Unfortunately, in recent years it’s hard to apply to term “we” to our country. A policy of obstructionism rather than collaboration coming from the right has mired our countries legislators in the muck. Instead of ensuring that the least among us receive help, Republicans have stubbornly committed to ensuring that only the wealthiest among us are protected.

Instead of working with democrats to put forth legislation that grants all Americans access to healthcare, Republicans in the House of Representative have spent countless hours proposing pointless legislation attempting to overturn the Affordable Care Act and in our own state rejected federal dollars to expand Medicare. Instead of working to balance the budget through sensible tax reform that cuts some programs and raises taxes on those that can afford it Republicans have buried their heads in the sand and refused to work with Democrats – leading to numerous instances where we as a country were unsure whether or not our country could be funded for another year. This is not a call to abolish parties or diffuse factions, for the myriad ideas that come from all different perspectives make a stronger. But we are strongest in collaboration and cooperation. It is how we achieved our independence – and maintained it.

In 2010 Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Minority leader from Kentucky said “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president.” In 2011 Governor Scott Walker ignored the thousands of people that protested his destruction of our state’s unions. This year Republicans fought to significantly reduce funding for food stamps by 8 billion dollars, despite the fact that 16.2 million children don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  It is clear that Republicans value their political ideals over the opinions, desires, and needs of the American people.

We, as an entire country, must not allow a single entity to undermine the stability and of our country. As Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.” Individually we may be small, but should we decide to work together we can truly do amazing things for our country, for our neighbors, for our friends and for ourselves. Unfortunately, Republicans country-wide have prevented this. We must fight to protect our liberty and re-instill the notion of unity – the “we” – that our country has been so desperately missing for so long. We must refuse the notion that politicians that are proud of destroying countless pieces of legislation, or using technicalities to force unpopular legislation on their constituents are working in our best interests. Without this mindset, our children will continue to face barriers to equal and equality education, women’s reproductive rights will be trammeled and trampled, minority voters will be pushed away from polls, and our veterans will have no support after they return from serving our country.

As we celebrate July 4th I encourage all of you to reflect on the goals of our founding fathers – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and to ask yourselves, which goal does the current spirit of disunion accomplish? Is this the country that our forefathers, our soldiers, our sons and daughters have sacrificed for?  It most certainly is not. A country in which voters are blocked from casting ballots, where crushing student loans force our college graduates to give up in their pursuit of the American dream, were a single mother has to work three jobs to support her children because minimum wage isn’t enough to pay rent.

This July 4th we must not only celebrate the great strides we have made in our independence, but recommit to it as well. Time and time again we have proven strongest when we come together as one nation to face our challenges. We must honor the sacrifice of the brave men and women who came before us and again raise our banner with a renewed call for liberty and justice for all. What is wonderful about our country and our history is that we have shown we can, and therefore know we can again.

Happy Independence Day!

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