My father often jokes that had I been born 5 hours earlier, he would have named me Ulysses instead of Arthur. That is, I could have been a 4th of July baby with the initials “U.S.”. I have been forever thankful that my mom stuck it out long enough to prevent that impediment on my life.
Sometimes I daydream about what would have happened in my life if I had been named Ulysses instead of Arthur. I believe I would have developed a very similar personality, but I suspect (mixing my current personality with the name) that I would have found myself running for public office at some level and leveraging my “U.S.” initials as a brand of patriotism.
But today I want to consider some “what ifs” that actually matter. Such as what if Washington’s Continental Army completely disintegrated during the march across New England? Or was decimated at New York? Or never made it across the Delaware? As much as we may honor today the patriots who spent their time articulating a fantastic message of freedom from the tyranny of the British King, our standing as a nation would have been seen as a quaint colonial uprising if it had not been for the hard work and sacrifices of the soldiers who fought for our freedoms.
It is entirely likely that the British Realm would have dominated the world in greater glory in the past 235 years. The great world wars of the 20th century may never have happened. Freedom for slaves may have occurred on a larger scale in the earlier part of the 19th century (recall that the British Kingdom led the world in abolishing slavery, not the United States).
It is hard to deduce the path of technology over the same time period… American inovation has been a factor in developing better processes and our freedoms have been a factor in developing better education and allowing dreamers to work out their dreams. And the urgent needs of war (though not a goal of a nation) have certainly led to some valuable inventions. I tend to believe that we would, if still a British colony, have a world without iPods or even computers, or televisions, or many of the modern conveniences that we enjoy today. We would probably still be populated heavily along the coasts, lacking efficient transportation, and Native Americans could still be holding much of the land in the midwest.
Spain and France could still be holders of large parts of the American continents.
Of course, the Founding Fathers could not have comprehended all that they initiated by standing up for the basic rights of man. They were dreamers, and some were fortunate enough to see parts of their dream come to fruition, but despite everything we may think about our current state of affairs, those men who sacrificed everything would doubtless be proud to see what their work has wrought.
Generation upon generation have looked upon the Revolution and subsequent creation of a republic as the cornerstones of our incredibly open society. The Constitution is a bulwark that has carried us through our darkest days, and provided over 200 years of bloodless changes in power. We should be proud of our ability to work things through as a nation in peace.
We may have concerns today about how the Constitution has been misunderstood by some, abused by others, and ignored at times when it should be the guide for how we make decisions. The frustrations grow when it becomes more apparent that our government, which was built to serve the people, appears to be served by the people. We must guard against this at every turn.
But the Founders would be proud to see that so many do remember their words, seek faithfully to carry on a free society, and flourish in our freedom. What we have today in the United States is more than I think they could have hoped for. No matter what one may think about the current state of political affairs, the dream of America continues to burn brightly. To the Founders we should be appreciative that they stuck through to the end, and that they sought the hand of Providence in what they did. While the structure of our government may be secular, our goals are tied to the will of our Creator who is the provider of the very rights we seek to defend.