The Fourth of July couldn't have come soon enough this year. On the nation's 237th birthday, Americans are stuck in a marathon family fight -- one of those rolling, tag-team, shoutfests where members choose up sides, let emotions rip and create poisonous divisions among themselves. We need to kick back and relax, if just for a day.
Backyard cookouts, downtime at the beach and fireworks displays? Consider them therapy as we sort out which values we like as a nation and which ones we want to scrap.
Are we a nation that wants to be more welcoming to immigrants, or do we think it's time to be more rigorous about our laws?
Are we ready to accept gays in the ranks of the legally married in all 50 states, or do we want to restrict in some places the newlywed game to heterosexual couples only?
Do we want Big Brother to keep an eye on our cellphone and email traffic in the name of anti-terrorism, or is the threat to our civil liberties a bigger problem than the possibility of another attack?
Actually, the Founding Fathers had some ideas about this.
On this day in 1776, they produced a Declaration of Independence -- a mission statement in part -- that articulated with passion and clarity the kind of country they envisioned.
Their working assumption was that all men are created equal -- endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And they did something else.
They chose a committee to design a federal seal.
Its motto? E pluribus unum: from many, one.
Strong debate is a hallmark of our democracy, but so are humanitarianism, inclusiveness, an appreciation of compromise and the idea that we're one nation from many kinds of people. For the country to work, we must debate our fellow citizens with a certain basic respect -- not as mortal enemies. We all need a cool-down. Happy Fourth.