In September of 2010, in one of our first Huffington Post blogs, we called for establishing Interdependence Day as a new national holiday “to celebrate the ‘Us’ in USA.” We reiterated that proposal in our 2013 book, Working the Pivot Points: To Make America Work Again.
Given three watershed events of the past two weeks, we think it is appropriate to revisit that proposal and to advance it once again. Those events were:
- The tragic shootings of eight African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston followed by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s leadership in proposing that the confederate flag no longer fly over the State Capitol, President Barack Obama’s educational and evocative message on racism delivered in his eulogy for those slain innocents, and the abiding grace and forgiveness of the families and friends of those who were killed
- The Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision on the Affordable Care Act
- The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on gay marriage
One United State Senator referred to the Supreme Court’s decisions as “some of the darkest 24 hours in American history.” We disagree completely with that assessment.
We see them as some of the most enlightened and elevating ones. In conjunction with the reaction to the Charleston killings, they bring us to a pivot point – a time to reconsider what is more important to us as Americans that which divides us or that which unites us.
We believe firmly that it should be the latter rather than the former. That is why, as we approach this 4th of July – our nation’s Independence Day – we advocate once again for an Interdependence Day.
That day could be held on July 3 or July 5 to emphasize that the United States is a great country created by the courageous acts of a few early on but built by the courageous acts of the many of all races, colors and creeds and yes – genders- through the years.
The diversity that is the American success story could not be imagined anywhere else in the world. It is peculiar and particular to this nation of immigrants.
Interdependence Day would enable us to recognize and acknowledge this. It could help us move us past some of the acrimonious debate and incivility that has characterized the past decade.
Unfortunately, the United States is increasingly becoming a country in which people live in technicolor but arguments are put forward in black and white. Those who are different or with whom one has differences are denigrated and vilified.
It is not familiarity but dissimilarity that breeds and speaks contempt. Indeed, we have Supreme Court justices who write disparaging statements in their dissenting opinions – such as the following by Antonin Scalia commenting on the gay marriage decision,
“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic… If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
This is not to say that as Americans we should be of a single mind or that we should not have serious disagreements about important matters. It is to assert that when we disagree, we should do so in a manner that respects the humanity, dignity and individuality, intellect and intent of those with opposing viewpoints and backgrounds.
In our original blog advocating an Interdependence Day, we wrote,
“American holidays are held primarily to recognize past accomplishments and contributions as opposed to celebrating the present and the future. The United States has always been a unique vessel of being and becoming. This day should acknowledge this by celebrating our diversity, the progress that has been made, and the opportunities and challenges ahead.”
Upon reflection, this perspective seems a proper one.
President Obama ended his powerful eulogy for those killed in Charleston by singing Amazing Grace. He began the song alone surprising those in the audience. Spontaneously, they all stood and joined him in unity singing the words to a spiritual song that is transcendent.
Amazing Grace was written by an English poet in the late 1700’s, has been recorded more than 3,000 times, and is in more than 1,000 hymnals. It is a song that crosses racial, religious and economic bridges and boundaries.
Amazing Grace sends a message. It is a message of redemption for those who believe in something or someone bigger than themselves. It is a message of hope.
Like Amazing Grace, Interdependence Day would be a message of hope. It would be a signal that the United States of America is a country that recognizes its communal history and prepared to prove that the best is yet to come by celebrating the “Us in USA.”