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Back to square one

Sometimes, when going about the daily bustle, it can be easy to forget what’s really important. We get lost in the weeds, can’t see the forest for the trees, or any of a hundred other phrases that have been coined to say the same thing.

In those times, it can be helpful to recenter and refocus, reminding ourselves of what is truly important; of what is at the core of whatever issue we are contemplating.

This Fourth of July marks America’s 246th birthday — coming up very rapidly on a major milestone.

Some might jest that America is over the hill.

We have been bombarded by injustices, both real and perceived, like never before — largely a fault of the digital era and the ability of social media to highlight things that decades ago would’ve never been more than a curiosity.

The breadth of climate change creeps closer year by year. Pundits tell us with increasing, and disturbing, regularity that we are living through such and such “unprecedented” events.

And amidst all of it, the political climate continues to intensify in America, with hot tempers and hotter discourse.

America, the home of the free.

America, we were taught, was founded with Enlightenment ideals: a notion that people have an intrinsic right to be free to live their lives as best they see fit. To support this, other concepts such as liberty, opportunity, and democracy serve as buttresses.

And of course, as Thomas Jefferson is famously — and often — quoted, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

It is hard to disagree that many of these core concepts have been weakened in current America:

The fall of Roe vs. Wade, regardless of beliefs on abortion, weakens the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment — a sweeping reduction of the freedoms we have enjoyed for decades.

Liberty has suffered under the yoke of social media — a public authority placed upon personal viewpoints.

When it comes to opportunity, one only needs to consider the current state of inflation. But beyond that, oppressive costs of housing, education, and healthcare, even prior to the current inflation period, prevents many Americans from enjoying the same opportunities as their parents did.

Whether called gerrymandering or redistricting, the power politicians wield to render our votes worth less and less cannot be described as anything more than a sham of democracy.

Likewise, incessant and increasing attacks on whether or not various minorities are truly deserving of equal rights and consideration spits in the face of our modern interpretation of Jefferson.

Last week, an AP-NORC poll revealed that 85 percent of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction.

That isn’t just one party or the other disagreeing with the actions of their political rivals.

It is easy to point fingers.

It is easy to get lost in the weeds.

Maybe we need to go back to square one — let our freedoms ring.

Arianna McKee is design editor of The Express community newspaper.

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