When considering the importance of the July 4th holiday in America, it is almost impossible to overstate it. July 4th is the day it all began. It is the day that set into motion all of the wonderful things that is the United States of America.
Perhaps above all, the second line of the Declaration of Independence illustrates why July 4th 1776 changed the world forever.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This line has taken on a life that goes well beyond the intended meaning of this proclamation. It has become a calling card for civil rights and equality for all. It has created an environment where many religions have been able to flourish alongside seculars and humanists. It has created a country where no one can be discriminated against for their beliefs.
In theory this is certainly a powerful sentiment. But if people are forced into non-discrimination would that create a harmonious atmosphere of different groups working together? Or would it simply protect against overt acts of violence or threats between groups?
In real life, it’s a mixed bag. Too often it is the latter. When it is the former it is worth noting. Especially on July 4th.
Today’s LA Times ran an article about the LA Eruv. (What’s an Eruv? My explanation is here: The Good Wife: Unorthodox, From a Rabbi / Law Student Perspective.) The LA Eruv uses the 405 Freeway for one of its walls. In case you haven’t heard, the 405 is the world’s biggest parking lot. During rush hour it can literally take an hour to travel a mile. To help relieve some of the stress on the 405, Caltrans is doing some construction.
The 405’s most dense corridor runs between the 10 Freeway and the 101 Freeway. That corridor will be 100% closed for TWO FULL DAYS. Los Angeles will be a traffic nightmare. (Carmaggedon – of course)
All the construction has also been a potential nightmare for the Eruv committee. Each project along the 405 breaks the wall and it is necessary to fill that area in with a temporary “wall” until the construction in that area is complete. Working together with Caltrans, the Eruv committee has been able to satisfy the halachic requirements for the Eruv every week during the construction.
But they have help. Howard Witkin, an administrator with the LA Eruv says:
“The level of help we’ve had, from the Roman Catholic permit people at Caltrans … to the Muslim line inspector along the freeways who gave us engineering help.…The level of deference and courtesy and kindness — it makes you feel good that you live in America.”
Yes it does.
So on July 4th, we celebrate the birth of a country that enables this kind of relationship between vastly different groups with very different beliefs.
Link: LA Times