Founders understood equality was means to true security
This weekend we will celebrate our nation's birthday with picnics, lake outings, fireworks and other timeless summer activities. But, as with other holidays, the Fourth of July has a greater meaning. It, of course, celebrates our nation's announcement that it was independent, a fact that then would only be won with years of struggle.
In declaring their independence, the revolutionaries in Philadelphia meant not only freedom from foreign masters but freedom from all would-be domestic masters. They declared they were a part of a community of equals, collectively responsible to governance.
Those guiding principles, stated at the start of a difficult seven-year rebellion, were never compromised or -- as is often the case in revolutionary atmospheres -- abandoned for more radical ideas. Rather they were reconfirmed and expanded in the creation of an enduring government 12 years later.
The nation of America was forged by a couple of generations of exceptional political thinkers who shared a distrust of power. In response, even the greatest and most ambitious of them saw true security not in elevating their personal legal privileges but in guaranteeing the equal rights of all. They based their government on a system of checks and balances that ensured no power would rise above the collective exercise of the will of peers.
This is the core of democracy. That it has great appeal is proved by its growing embrace around the globe and the many immigrants it sought and continue to seek to live that ideal. But it can also be difficult to sell to the powerful and privileged who would seek to institutionalize their advantages through government.
We are now attempting to transplant those ideals in Iraq, where elites and masses know first hand the abuses of unchecked power. The success of the exercise will largely depend on the recognition by individuals and factions in the country that their security is better guaranteed in equality than in privilege.
As the Iraqi experiment begins, we should reflect on the principles and defend them by being an active citizen in a community of equals.