Our reverence for July 4 reflects America’s core value of independence – of freedom from dependence on others.
Its import is captured in other founding beliefs and practices such as puritanism and the rugged individualism of our Western-settler ancestors. It's also evident in our predilection toward nationalism, isolationism and conservatism’s tenet of small government: don’t tread on me.
However, independence is functional only in societies with sufficient respect for cooperative interdependence – where citizens have shared aspirations and a strong sense that they all sink or swim together. This encourages them to come together to agree on the most basic rules, norms, taboos and laws that govern their lives.
Without it, an unchecked thirst for independence and competition leads to a selfish free-for-all, a Hobbesian existence that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Our focus on “me” needs to be buffered by a commitment to “we.”
Today, America is sorely lacking unity. We have plenty of “me” time, and ample “us versus them” – being polarized politically at historically high levels – which has left our sense of social cohesion so withered that The Economist Intelligence Unit has downgraded us to a “flawed” democracy, and our ranking on the 2021 Global Peace Index has fallen to 122nd out of 163 nations.
So, I am calling for a new national holiday – American Interdependence Day – a celebration of the “us” in the U.S. and acknowledgement of the fact that our individual fates are inextricably linked.