I recall clearly the year 1976, when under President Gerald Ford, America celebrated its bicentennial with great patriotic fervor. Events highlighted our Constitution and Revolutionary War struggles, and the “Spirit of 1776” was renewed. The nation was recovering from the OPEC oil embargo, which contributed to the frightening specter of stagflation. We also were rebounding from the divisive issues surrounding the Vietnam War. The hopeful recognition of our country’s history served to unite and encourage Americans of all political stripes.
The nation is confronting stagflation pressures once again — spiking interest rates combined with a declining economy. The political turmoil that divides us today is perhaps even more intense than the divisiveness of Vietnam, though many say that was even more bitter.
2026 will mark 250 years since our nation’s founding, and we face not one but two more elections between now and then. In the five decades since the bicentennial, much has indeed changed — technology has advanced astonishingly, the nation’s economic primacy has weakened, and the whimsical television of “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie” has given way to violent video games and pornographic pop music.
Yet I pray that our nation will again unite across political and social lines to celebrate the unique place America has occupied in human history. Elevating individual rights above the group is what has set this nation apart. Despite tribalism and conflict, that recognition of the primacy of the individual as the center of our jurisprudence and creed must remain the core of what America stands for, unlike nations like China and Russia that have demonstrated what happens when group-think takes hold: tens of millions of people were starved or slaughtered in those nations, far more than in Hitler’s Holocaust.
As I travel the hills of the Green Mountains, I see many American flags that celebrate these foundational principles of liberty and the rule of law. While there are extremists on both sides who would attack the pillars of American exceptionalism, the majority of Americans and Vermonters still seek that common ground and mutual respect that has ensured for 246 years that “United We Stand.”
At the recent Tunbridge World’s Fair, I was heartened by the numerous patriotic T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies that proudly displayed the colors of our American creed — flags, but also red, white and blue slogans of Americana at its best. More, I saw great hope in how many young people sported these symbols as expressions of enjoyment of the fair and the many blessings of enjoying public gatherings like Tunbridge Fair, which themselves celebrate our agriculture and Vermont culture. (Tunbridge Fair celebrated its 150th year in 2022, and my family of Brookfield, Vermont Stoddards have been attending loyally for all that time).
We must all come together in that patriotic hope, in the creed that has united our communities, states and individuals since 1776. When we find common ground in today’s struggles against racism, economic decline, fiscal problems, food security and other societal challenges, we discover that what has bonded us together for all this time can still serve and nurture our communities in 2026 and beyond.
Let’s celebrate as Americans every year!
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2022. All rights reserved.