Happy Birthday, America: At age 243, you remain the hope of freedom for all

Fireworks explode over Chukchansi Park following the Fresno Grizzlies baseball game to celebrate the Fourth of July in 2016 in downtown Fresno.
Fireworks explode over Chukchansi Park following the Fresno Grizzlies baseball game to celebrate the Fourth of July in 2016 in downtown Fresno. Fresno Bee file

Happy Birthday, America! Our nation marks its 243rd birthday today. We recall with pride how the founding fathers forged the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to free us from the tyranny of British rule. In return, we gained the precious gift of freedom.

These 243 years later, some say America is horribly messed up with a bitter, partisan political divide, urban ills like crime and rampant drug abuse, and a growing haves/have-nots economy. There is no question our nation faces major challenges. But when has it not?

To say this is the worst time in our history, as some do, is to forget the Civil War. During that conflict from 1861 to 1865, a total of 620,000 Americans were killed — the bloodiest conflict fought by U.S. forces. In all the rest of the nation’s wars, another 640,000 Americans have died. The point being that we are not in conditions like those of the Civil War era, as strident as our political discourse has become.

Another thing to remember is that America remains a place of opportunity. Every month in Fresno, about 1,000 immigrants go through the citizenship ceremony and become naturalized residents. As such, they can vote, run for public office, serve on a jury, sponsor relatives to migrate to this country, and more. They come from all over the world, primarily from México, India and the Philippines.

Then there is the freedom to write this editorial. The ability to report and publish whatever The Bee deems important, without government censor, is a privilege not lost on the Editorial Board. We are grateful for the opportunity, and likewise appreciate how we can publish more than 100 letters to the editor each month as well as longer Valley Voices and op-ed submissions from residents and leaders in the community.

America is by no means perfect. The nation has undergone shameful periods of racial and social injustice, like the internment of Japanese Americans that was recalled in a commentary by Brynn Saito and Nikiko Masumoto published Wednesday in The Bee. The response of the Trump administration to immigrants trying to enter the southern border (many of them asylum seekers), only to be held in deplorable conditions — with children and parents being separated by policy — is a current example of America at its worst.

In just over a year the Democratic party will hold its national convention to pick its candidate for president in the 2020 election. The following month the Republicans will gather, presumably to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term. The discourse over the election year will no doubt be difficult; tensions at times will be high, and our national unity will be tested.

But the American experiment will continue, and it remains the best form of governance the world has ever known. That is certainly worth celebrating today. Happy Birthday, America!