4th of July Parade, Bristol RI
Through a sauna-like haze, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Bahai, Quakers, Secular Humanists . . . everyone of every stripe celebrated American Independence yesterday. Our own Steve Shapiro marched in yesterday's historic Bristol July 4th parade representing the Jewish War Veterans.
There are many things we celebrate when we come together on the 4th: beyond the burgers and the fireworks, we are celebrating American democracy . . . a fractious, deeply-rooted, clunky, impressively reliable system that has protected the free speech, free electoral system, free economy, free practice of faith and free public debate which enriches our lives and supports the aspirations of so many of our citizens and new immigrants.
Demonstrators fill the streets in Egypt, July 4, 2013
How different was the mood in the streets of Egypt this same week: just as hot (but much less humid), wall-to-wall demonstrators and flags pushing back as the hopes of the Arab spring have deeply disappointed, and deeply divided, the citizens of Egypt.
It is early days to predict whether Egypt is ever going to enjoy a system of democracy as extraordinary as our own . . . personally, I wish for them the level of frustration we experience here from time to time from our political system. We have learned to trust the system; we have learned that as much as we may be "underwhelmed" by the views, methods, commitments of any given elected official our system of checks and balances will prevent the most egregious government steps. We've learned that we'll have a chance to vote again before too long and express our opinions in the most effective ways possible.
We've learned that democracy is not perfect. Indeed, 237 years after winning our independence, we are still tweaking the system, instituting course corrections, applying new knowledge and values to make sure that the foundational principles of democracy remain viable as our culture, technology and economy continue to evolve.
I hope you all enjoyed a steamy, but joyous, 4th of July . . . and I hope that next year, as we celebrate our 238th year of independence, we'll witness the people of Egypt celebrating becoming a step closer to a real democracy for themselves.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.