As Independence Day, with its celebrations and observances, begins to fade across America, it is an interesting time for the idea of democracy.
Perhaps more than at any other time in our relatively short history, it's become important how we talk about our grand American experiment, and our collective experience.
There's a school of thought that says whatever you give your attention to will grow and flourish. It doesn't matter whether it's a defunct system that you can't abide, or a germ of an idea that you hope will blossom.
Our constant berating or praise, tearing down or building up actually gives life to it no matter the intention.
That's why I'm always mystified by those who spend so much time tearing down what their neighbors have built, and then give so little attention toward recognizing what's working so well.
It's the idea that if you just nag all of us enough, we'll give in and do what you want, just to shut you up. Actually, if we have any self-respect at all, we just move out of earshot. Nothing good is accomplished.
Just so you know, when you're standing in front of me telling me how evil Corporate America is, or how greedy and selfish any large group of Americans are, you're slinging that arrow at me, as well. We all do business with Corporate America in big and small ways every time we buy clothing or shop for food or cash our paycheck.
I don't play that parlor game where I draw up a list of labels, separate myself out from the ones I don't like, and then blame everyone else. I get it, we're all in this together, and it'd be nice if the constant naysayers would work with us sometimes, rather than spewing insults about how we're not doing it right, which means the way they see it.
Pointing fingers is its own unique form of arrogance and judgment swirled around with a hint of victimhood. It causes separation and a lack of cooperation, and we aren't actually walking away from the experience marveling at how pious and dedicated you are to your causes. We're hoping some pin pops that pompous bubble sooner rather than later.
So, in the wake of this Fourth of July, let's try a different kind of experiment and let's do it in honor of our servicemen and women who have pledged to serve and protect, whether we have an ounce of gratitude or understanding, or not. That's a grander form of democracy in action.
Right now, as we all ooh and ahh at the fireworks going off, Americans are fighting in two different wars while trying to maintain a neutral border or stop despots from killing their own people all across the globe.
Let's also approach our neighbors, civic and corporate leaders, our children's teachers, the clerks and service people we come across as decent people, who are trying to put food on their table and take care of their families just like the rest of us. Stop adding up the faults in them that you can see even from a distance, and consider that adding up someone else's worth isn't your job anyway.
Instead, come up with a few simple solutions for the issues that really concern you and be willing to move your feet in cooperation with others. In other words, how about we all start offering the solution instead of poking at what we've decided are the problems. No, you don't get to make yourself better than the guy who's not helping. That just takes away from your efforts, so look for something to praise and keep the rest to yourself.
If you don't believe this would ever work, remember that over 200 years ago, a group of men from different economic and social backgrounds got together to give an entire nation a chance to decide their own fate.
The group argued and even, occasionally, came to blows, but to our everlasting amazement and gratitude they moved forward and extended the ideal of democracy to the largest amount of people that had ever been granted it.
Sure, there were groups left out, but fortunately, freedom to vote and decide as a collective still matters, and we continue to let the ideal of democracy grow and change with the times.
We can honor that gift by removing our judgment from each other and stop acting as if we have to be right quite so much.
I hope as you ate burned hotdogs and waved around a sparkler, last weekend, while watching your kids run through the sprinkler, you took a moment to offer gratitude and thanksgiving to those who believed in what we might do, so much, they gave their lives -- and those who offer that same sacrifice today.
That's high praise, indeed. Tweet me @MarthaRandolph, and let me know your favorite stories of neighbors working together.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at Martha@caglecartoons.com.