Happy 237th Birthday, Dear America! As we get ready to celebrate our 237th birthday, and look forward to a four day weekend starting on the Fourth of July, we enjoy down time, sales, cook-outs and fireworks. It’s time to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Time to don the red, white and blue and hang out.
While there is no shortage of unfolding news stories today that grip our attention, including the unfolding crisis in Egypt as it’s new government is now being run by the military in the interim between Morsi and whoever is next ; the whereabouts (and what-abouts) of Edward Snowden; the George Zimmerman trial, and more unfolding stories, we will nonetheless relax and note that in 237 years, we’ve been through a lot. But what about our future?
The last twelve years have felt off balance, here in the USA. Some have bemoaned our decline. We are vulnerable to domestic and international terrorism. We have fought two horrific and incredibly long wars. Our economy tanked in a way that was not seen for generations, and we are still struggling to create jobs at home. The American Dream for so many young adults seems to be just a dream. Like our crumbling bridges and highways, much of our physical and governmental infrastructure seems to be in desperate need of repair. We have so many more issues to confront, and people question the ability of government to accomplish basics, much less improve conditions. We seem so acrimonious and scared, and seem to be so enervated after the last twelve years. Are we just middle aged at 237?
Or are we adolescent? Bickering and ideological; not considering consequences, but yelling grand philosophical theories about government; slamming doors. We love our gadgets and games and our industry of entertainment. We eat all the time. Everything else feels like a chore. We want to be safe, but not watched. We think we are invincible. We can find flaws in everything . Nothing is good enough. We are way more together than the other countries, even with our pimples.
Of course it’s hard to know if this 237th birthday of ours is one that will have us heading for colonoscopies or toward reconciling our early years (237) with the possibilities for adulthood. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists characteristics of cognitive and social-emotional development of adolescents . It seems to me that we could be in the middle stages of adolescence.
Cognitively, middle staged adolescents have:
Continued growth of capacity for abstract thought
Greater capacity for setting goals
Interest in moral reasoning
Thinking about the meaning of life
Moving into late adolescence we would need to have:
Ability to think ideas through from beginning to end
Ability to delay gratification
Examination of inner experiences
Increased concern for future
Continued interest in moral reasoning
and move our social-emotional development to:
Firmer sense of identity, including sexual identity (**and be accepting everywhere)
Increased emotional stability
Increased concern for others
Increased independence and self-reliance
Peer relationships remain important
Development of more serious relationships
Social and cultural traditions regain some of their importance
Declaring our independence for the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness does not have to be adolescent. We can be thoughtful and responsible and inclusive while allowing the pursuit of freedom. 237 may not be young, but I’m not convinced that we are middle aged yet, either. We have a wealth of resources and experiences to draw upon to generate positive impact. We are old enough to reflect and learn, and young enough to create and foster progress while deepening our relationships. Happy Birthday to US!