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We have each other’s backs

The Mercury in Manhattan

July 5

We’ve been thinking about the Fourth of July, and the freedom and independence that it celebrates, in light of the pandemic we’re currently fighting.

There’s a connection. Bear with us.

Start with this: Freedom is often thought of in terms of a lack of restrictions. To be “free” is to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. That’s the simple way to think of it. And, since America is the “Land of the Free,” it might seem that our guiding principle should be limitlessness. Individual freedom above all.

But that’s not the full picture. There’s also the idea of “all for one, one for all” that goes all the way back to the original Fourth of July, too. You might not think of it that way, but it’s true.

The reason we celebrate that date is because it’s when the founders of the country signed the Declaration of Indepence. That was the document that told Great Britain that we were out. We were on our own.

The line that resonates has always been the one about all people being created equal and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That’s a strong line, and a strong concept.

But before the signatures — the place at the end of the Declaration where people signed their names, potentially sentencing themselves to death for treason — comes another line that ought to resonate. It says “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

In other words, we’re in this together. We’ve got each other’s backs. We’re a team. All for one, one for all.

That’s what it would take to win a war of independence and establish a country, organized to secure the “safety and happiness” of its citizens. That was the point; so says another line in the Declaration.

So here we are, 244 years later, face-to-face with a virus that can kill vulnerable people, arguing with each other about wearing masks. Arguing is not the problem — we’ve always done that, and we always will. That’s democracy.

That’s also the legacy of our founding. Yes, we’re the Land of the Free, and we have “unalienable rights” to pursue happiness as we see fit.

But there’s also a legacy that we’re part of a team. Always have been, always will be.

We stay at home, we put the mask on, we consider the needs of others, because we have a pledge to each other. We do so freely, but we do so because the point of the whole thing is to secure safety and happiness for one and all.

We hope you had a good Fourth of July. The reason this country is the greatest in the history of the world is because of freedom, independence, and because of our pledge to each other.

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