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Dream big, America. Happy July 4
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One of the great newspaper columnists of any era was Erma Bombeck, the humorist who enchanted readers for decades with her witty take on life in suburbia in a column that ran from the 1960s until her death in 1996.
We mention Bombeck because she summed up the upcoming July 4 weekend better than many and as well as anyone, and we offer it as a reminder of just how lucky we are as a people, and as a country.
Said Bombeck: “You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”
Sadly, some say we are unraveling as a nation, we’re more polarized than ever and facing imminent doom as a country, though it seems to us every generation goes through such times. Surely, despite daily claims the sky is falling — and the blame for that depends on what your politics are — we’re no more polarized now than, say, in 1861-1864, when our country was engaged in a bloody war against itself.
Divided? What about Vietnam? Or the Red scares of the 1950s, when innocent people lost livelihoods and reputations because of real or imagined associations with supposed communists?
Remember the Civil Rights movement? As Southerners, we have a special duty to honor those who fought for their rights in that movement and demand we never go back to a time when segregation and discrimination against fellow Americans was institutionalized. To truly be free, you cannot deny freedom to others.
But yes, there have times in our  history when it seemed as if the whole experiment was about to sink. Somehow, we’ve managed to survive every emergency. Every one.
That's not to say there aren't problems.  Despite a supposedly booming, economy, income inequality is growing. And though our richest are among the world’s richest, our middle class is no longer the most affluent in the world; that distinction appears to belong to Canada and others are gaining on us. At the same time, our working poor are poorer than those in many developed countries, and losing ground.
We’re also a citizen of a world plagued by evils ranging from environmental — drought, pollution, shifting climate patterns which could lead to massive crop failures and starvation and ecological disasters — to political and religious unrest that could in a flash or a bang lead to a less stable world. New technology could be a solution, but it also tends to bring with it more problems.
Our public education system is in dire need of an overhaul, our tax system is unfair and too full of loopholes for those who can afford them, our courts are overloaded, our infrastructure is crumbling and that 1 percent of our nation who serve in uniform have borne too much of the burden these years since 9/11. There’s also that rancor which pretends to be public discourse.
We have more information than ever, but as a society seem no better informed. Actually, most folks appear so wrapped up in living their lives, or in trying to make a living, they give little thought to the greater questions we face.
So yes, it's a tough time for many. But it’s no worse than the worst time we’ve faced and better than many, and we’ll survive it because we still aspire, at our best, to be the place that so many risk life and limb to come to. We still aspire to be a place where men and women are free to pursue happiness. All this because our ancestors dared to think big.
Earlier this week, retiring Israeli president Shimon Peres received the Congressional Gold Medal for a life spent in service to his nation and the world. At the ceremony, shown on CSPAN, he spoke of the relationship between Israel and the U.S., and his words about our country and the dreams it represents are worth repeating.
“America is the greatest power in the world today, And the only great power in history that never tried to become an Empire. You became great not by taking but by giving. America is a force for good. A force for progress. A force for peace. The world is fortunate that America continues to lead it.”
Peres ended by reminding us of who we are and what we should aspire too.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I leave you today with one piece of advice. It is the advice of a boy who dreamed on a kibbutz who never imagined where his blessed life would take him. When Theodore Herzl said: "If you will it, it is no dream." He was right.
Looking back on the life of Israel, our dreams proved not to be too big, but too small. Because Israel achieved much more than I could have ever imagined. So I ask only one thing of the United States of America, this mighty nation of dreamers.
Don’t dream small. You are great. So dream big. And work to will those dreams into a new reality for you and all humanity. God bless you all. And God bless the United States of America. God bless you all.And God bless the United States of America."
Dream big, indeed. Happy July 4 and God bless America.

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