In the course of human events it is necessary, now and again, to renew our commitment to the principles and practices that made our country great in the first place.
Our country has always held what the Declaration of Independence says about certain “Truths”: They are “self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Regrettably, we forget these simple truths sometimes.
To renew our passion for the free and equal pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, we need a new declaration that promotes civility, open conversation and common sense.
Look, when someone disagrees with a political position we hold, it does not make the individual a monster or something subhuman. It does nobody any good to demonize or ridicule this person - not in a country founded on freedom of speech.
To renew our gratitude for the incredible freedoms we enjoy - freedoms that do not exist in many other parts of the world - is it not better to engage your political opponents in civil conversation and debate rather than to prevent them from speaking at all?
Groupthink and political correctness are killing open debate in our country. Too many university students, professors and administrators across our great land are not only shunning individuals who dare to challenge their status quo. They are aggressively, sometimes forcefully, infringing on their right to speak freely. They are issuing authoritarian campus speech codes.
If American citizens cannot openly discuss and criticize any and every idea on university campuses, then where, for goodness sakes, are they able to do so?
How did we arrive at a state of affairs in this country in which a person who criticizes ObamaCare - a person who argues that libertarian and free-market ideas can better address spiraling health-care costs and free up funds to help those in need - is smeared as someone who hates the poor?
How did we arrive at a state of affairs in which someone who questions the emotions and politics of climate change is labeled as a climate denier, someone whose dangerous thinking must be shouted down and maybe even result in some kind of punishment?
How did so many of our major journalists, whose role is protected by our Constitution, embrace such a pack mentality as they advocate for the political ideas and candidates they like, and attack the political ideas and candidates they dislike?
The result is that half the country cheers on their advocacy, while the other half questions the credibility of every story they report. Is this not a dangerous problem for a country that relies on its press to keep those in power honest?
There is a huge divide in the country between those who think government can offer the best solutions to our challenges and those who think less government, with more individual freedoms, is the way to go.
In a country as free and robust as ours, we certainly can work out our differences and find common ground. To do so, we must restore civility in our public debate, dial down the violent rhetoric, and listen to others who think differently than we do.
As other parts of the world work to emulate America’s devotion to free thought and speech - as others across work to embrace the “unalienable Rights” to “ Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” - can we please get back to leading the way?
Hey, the Fourth of July is at hand. I can think of no better time to embrace a new declaration that promotes civility, open conversation and common sense.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.