It’s Independence Day, and of all the things you can do to celebrate the holiday, I think there’s one thing that’s really important. And that’s to disagree. Let me explain.
The 4th of July is the celebration of the American colonies declaring independence from Great Britain in 1776. The holiday celebrates ideals like freedom and democracy.
Yet we celebrate it in weird ways, as we do with most holidays. We watch fireworks, which symbolizes the Revolutionary War. We sing the national anthem, which was actually written about the War of 1812, which was more a land dispute than a fight for freedom.
And then of course we have barbecues and pool parties because, well, it’s summer.
So how do you celebrate freedom and democracy in a way that actually commemorates the ideals that they were fought for?
You live it out.
Exercise your freedom and participate in democracy.
A Lesson in Democracy from Hamilton the Musical
For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton the musical on constant repeat. It will blow your mind.
It’s the story of the life of Alexander Hamilton set to… wait for it… rap and hip hop.
Before you think it’s lame, it won a Grammy and 11 Tony Awards.
Alexander Hamilton fought in the Revolutionary War alongside George Washington. He helped draft and sign the new Constitution, and was famous for writing the Federalist Papers defending it. He the was on President Washington’s cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury and created the nation’s central banking system. He also founded the US Coast Guard.
So in short, a pretty intense guy.
But this is what struck me about him – he disagreed with so many people and argued passionately with them. And he put he put to action what he believed in – he wrote 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers, a series of essays arguing for the Constitution.
Yet he accepted compromise, signing a Constitution he didn’t fully agree with, but knew that it was an improvement over what they had before and that it could be improved with amendments.
Hamilton argued for what he believed in, accepted compromise in favor of progress, and worked together with his opponents to get things done.
Democracy in Practice
My coworkers and I had a political discussion during work.
Usually people hate talking politics (or they love talking politics, and most other people don’t like talking to them). Politics is rooted deeply in our core beliefs about individuals and society that we get defensive very quickly.
So people avoid it altogether because it tend to bring up a lot of anger.
But the conversation I had was remarkably different. The 3 of us has different viewpoints on government corruption. We had an intelligent, civil debate.
We presented our views. We brought up specific incidents to back our claims, or demanded them from each other. We brought up stats and fact-checked each other.
In the end, none of us moved from our positions. But we understood and acknowledged how each of us could come to different conclusions looking at the same facts.
We agreed to disagree. We never raised our voices. We were never rude. We never demeaned each other.
That’s how you practice freedom and democracy.
Here’s How You Can Celebrate Independence Day
Have conversations about politics. Have them everyday. Politics isn’t just elections.
Talk about issues in your neighborhood. Talk about money. Talk about business. Talk about healthcare. Talk about travel.
Almost anything in our lives can fall under politics, because politics is a society functions together. In order to continue extending freedom and democracy, we need to always be creating it through our conversations.
Here’s how to you can have good, civil conversations on things that matter.
Talk to understand, not convince. We get into heated debates because we’re trying to prove each other wrong. Instead try to understand how the other person arrived at the viewpoint.
Talk with logic, not emotions. Debates don’t go anywhere because people talk from assumptions based on how they feel. Present facts and examples that support your case, and ask the other person to do so as well.
Talk to disagree. Chances are you’re not going to convince the other person of anything, but that’s ok. You’re allowed to disagree and still be friends.
The founding fathers weren’t idiots. They were intelligent and well-educated. They also had strong beliefs about society and government, and debated passionately for them. Through debate and discussion, they were able to agree and create our system of government.
It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t 100% agreed upon for everybody. But it was compromise and progress, and continued to be refined over two centuries.
That’s how we celebrate Independence Day and ensure its values are upheld. We freely and openly discuss and debate, and together compromise and move forward.