On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his State of the Union address, which became known as the “Four Freedoms Speech.” As Europe was embroiled in WWII, and Pearl Harbor was just 11 months away, FDR put forth a summary of the democratic values that were under assault at the time.
On this Independence Day let us reflect on some of the many challenges to FDR’s “Four Freedoms” in our national life today.
Freedom of Speech: Silencing unpopular views, limiting press access, stigmatizing the media, trigger warnings on campus, “fake news.”
Freedom of Worship: Vandalism at houses of worship, increased Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, immigration ban based on religion.
Freedom from Want: Poverty, income inequality, limiting access to affordable health care, systemic racism, rampant addiction, unequal pay for women.
Freedom from Fear: Hate speech, rising hate crimes, racial profiling, epidemic gun violence, homophobia, mass deportations, hostility toward immigrants.
Most likely you could add many more items that I have missed, but this list tells us we have a long way to go. Even FDR fell short of his own ideals by interning Japanese- Americans during the war.
If our Fourth of July celebrations are to have moral integrity we need to be clear-eyed about our significant failings to live up to our highest ideals. Otherwise patriotism and love of country risk becoming mere zealotry and can lead to xenophobia and jingoism.
There is a line in “America the Beautiful” that goes “America, America, God mend thine every flaw . . .” I like that. It acknowledges the truth about our imperfections and invites us to pray and work to make our nation “a more perfect union.”
Prayer: O God of the nations, move our hearts toward your love, justice and peace.
(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for July 4, 2017. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: The Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell)