Sheriff Kevin Sproul: Thoughts for the Fourth of July
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Years ago, Carl Sagan viewed a picture of the Earth taken by space probe Voyager I. In the photograph the Earth appeared to be just a pale blue dot against the background of cosmic blackness. The picture inspired him to write, “Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds…”
In this country, we have an almost infinite number of ways to subdivide ourselves. We have racial divisions, ethnic divisions, religious divisions, and political divisions. Each division gives an excuse for disagreement and prejudice. All too often, people fall into the trap of believing that their “group” is better than all others, or that they are “right” and all others are “wrong”. I would implore each of us to remember that there is a group to which we all belong, and that is the group we call “Americans”.
My father served in the United States Marine Corp and fought in Korea. He used to tell me that when you are in battle you don’t care if the man fighting beside you is black or white, Catholic or Protestant. All that matters is that he is an American.
This country was founded by people seeking the freedom to define their own “group”. They wanted the freedom to choose their own religion and lifestyle. We have a democracy in which the majority rules, but also a Constitution so that the rights of the minority aren’t infringed. Americans are, by definition, a people of differing opinions. Why then should we become upset when those opinions are expressed?
Shouldn’t we accept that there will always be different opinions on every issue? Shouldn’t we accept that there will always be people who look differently, act differently, and believe differently than we do? Shouldn’t we all have the right to express our opinions without fear of reprisal, so long as our method of expression doesn’t impinge upon the rights of others? If we expect to have this right as Americans, we should respect this right for all other Americans.
Our freedom to disagree is just one of the many rights secured for us by the blood of those who came before us. So often I see individuals lash out at those with whom they disagree in a way that shows profound disrespect to the sacrifices made so that we may enjoy such freedom.
This Fourth of July, my hope and prayer for our country is that every American will remember to live out the great commandment that Jesus told the lawyer in Matthew 22:37-39. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and the second is to love thy neighbor as yourself. Just as God loves each of us, we can make a real difference toward others by letting go of our hate, envy, and strife and simply loving our fellow brothers and sisters. I hope we all can remember that we are not that dissimilar. Although we may be of different races, or religions, or political parties, or County districts, or eye color, or blood type – we are all part of the same group. We are all Americans.