A Fourth of July Gallup poll presented an interesting picture about our country.
Americans overwhelmingly express pride in being American, yet the division is wide and deep about what being an American means.
Eighty-five percent of respondents say they are “extremely” or “very” proud to be an American.
Yet, 71 percent say they think the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be “disappointed” how the country has turned out.
Only 15 percent of conservatives and 12 percent of Republicans say the signers of the Declaration would be “pleased” with how the country has turned out. But, 41 percent of liberals and 42 percent of Democrats say the signers of the Declaration would be pleased.
Clearly, there are very different ideas between the two parties and between conservatives and liberals about what “truths” the signers of the Declaration felt were “self evident” and what exactly rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” means.
That’s not to say that there was unanimity of opinion even among those who signed the Declaration of Independence.
To state the obvious, there are signatures affixed to the bottom of the Declaration of men who saw no inherent contradiction in a nation founded on the idea of liberty in which slavery was legal.
My guess is that the 85 percent who today express pride in being an American do so because they believe this is a free and moral country. We all agree, I think, on these principles.
But, like the difference of opinion about slavery two centuries ago, we have huge disconnects among large parts of our population about what a free and moral country is about.
Anyone who follows what I write can guess where I stand.
It is hard for me to believe that many in our country see no contradiction in believing that freedom can be an American ideal while half of Americans live in households getting some sort of government benefits.
Or that somehow a country can be thought of as free in which forty cents of every dollar the national economy produces goes to government at either the federal, state, or local level.
Or that government can put us in debt to the tune of the total value of the annual output of our economy.
Or that the real debt burden sitting on the American public is some $90 trillion – more than five times the size of our GDP – that represents the unfunded liabilities of social security, Medicare, and other government programs.