The country is currently awash in controversy over two topics. One is the appropriateness of locating a mosque near ground zero in New York City. The other is the discussion about revising the 14th amendment to address the citizenship status of the children of "illegal immigrants" born in the United States.
These issues are the tip of the iceberg and symptoms of an underlying problem. That problem is the fragile status of the American community and our relations to each other as Americans. Given this condition, we believe that it's imperative to find a way to elevate that which unites us rather than to exaggerate that which divides us.
To accomplish this, we recommend adding a new holiday to the federal calendar -- Interdependence Day. Its purpose would be to celebrate the "US" in USA.
Interdependence Day would be an appropriate holiday at any time. Establishing Interdependence Day as a national holiday is essential at this point in time to counteract the current acrimonious climate and the negative tone and tenor of the national debate in the United States.
This rising tide fueled by economic anxiety and insecurity, political partisanship, and separatists is forcing Americans into isolated camps turning us against each other -- group against group. We ignore this tide at the nation's and democracy's peril. The tide has taken many forms and has been manifested in many ways. Here are a few examples.
On April 23, Arizona passed a tough immigration law. Less than a week later, in response to a national uproar, the bill was amended to ease concerns about racial profiling. Numerous states have drafted or passed laws similar to Arizona's and polls show that a large majority of Americans support them. This makes it clear that illegal immigration is a hot button issue. The need for solving this problem is unquestionable. Whether state laws are the best way to address this problem is questionable.
This summer, a conservative Catholic group called Fidelis conducted a national survey of millions of Catholic voters. In the survey, Fidelis asserted that the Freedom of Choice Act would "require doctors to even kill live babies who survive a failed abortion and that under the Fairness Doctrine "Catholic radio stations would likely be required to give equal time to atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Satanists, etc...". The need to protect religious liberties and Fidelis' right to do a survey is unquestionable. Whether this survey is in the best interest of either Catholics or the American religious community is questionable.
This year the National Center for Constitutional Studies will hold over 180 sessions across the country to review the Constitution, and to share its view of the founding fathers perspective and frame the founding of the nation in a religious perspective. Earl Taylor is President of the Center. In one of these sessions held in Springfield, Missouri recently, Mr. Taylor reviewed the constitution and all of its amendments. During his discussion of the amendments Taylor is reported to have stated that he felt the nation's leaders could have stopped at ten; claimed that Thomas Jefferson's slaves wouldn't have wanted to be freed because of the way he cared for them; and opined that women's suffrage could have been enacted individually by the states. Mr. Taylor's right to interpret history and to state his opinion with others is unquestionable. Whether his interpretation is accurate or done to promote the common good is questionable.
The past few years have been an incredibly divisive period. We need to confront this divisiveness head on by promoting national unity and a commonality of interest.
Interdependence Day would be a powerful means for accomplishing this.
It would permit us to recognize the connections that bind us together as citizens of this great country. America is a nation of immigrants and continues to be so. Immigrants have and will help make us what we are. Consequently, the Statue of Liberty should be made central to the holiday. E pluribus Unum should be its theme.
American holidays are held primarily to recognize past accomplishments and contributions as opposed to celebrating the present and the future. This holiday should focus backward and forward. The United States has always been a unique vessel of being and becoming. This day should acknowledge this by celebrating our diversity, the progress that has been made, and the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Interdependence Day is one way of beginning to deal with the red and blue divide by building bridges and a shared community of choice. That which we celebrate can bind us together. That which we ignore can tear us apart.
The late John Wooden, the renowned coach of UCLA, said, "Sports do not build character. They reveal it." How we resolve our current debate and move forward in the coming years will reveal our American character. Our expectation is that we will do so, as we have in the past, as an independent and interdependent people striving together to create a more perfect union. That has been and will be the American way. And, that's why we need to establish Interdependence Day as a national holiday.