As I write, judging by the saturation coverage of all the major media outlets, the primary consideration on the minds of the world’s popular culture is the plan for the memorial service for Michael Jackson. I will spare you my commentary on the life and career of this obviously very gifted, but sad and tragic figure, except to observe that we have come a long way in the evolution of generational pop icons–from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson–and I will leave it to your judgment as to which direction this progression is headed. RIP.
Notwithstanding the priorities of popular culture, I trust that most Americans will reserve the proper time this coming Independence Day weekend for the reflective contemplation of what July 4th means to all Americans and, in fact, should mean to the world, for this is much more than an American holiday. We could start by doing two things: first, read the Declaration of Independence, or at least the second paragraph, remember how revolutionary were these words at the time they were written, and reflect on how important they are to the foundation of the rule of law and moral order that have sustained this experiment in self-government; second, read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, particularly the part that includes “whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure”, to remind you of how absolutely critical the success of this experiment has been and remains to the many millions of struggling people around the world. When we live and defend the words in these two documents, they become, as Lincoln said, “a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression”. This is the essence of American exceptionalism.