The 4th day of July has been set aside in our Republic for the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the members of the Second Continental Congress at that moment in rebellion against the authority of the King in Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, whose subjects they then were. Last year I wrote about rebellion and revolution; of the power of detachment sealed with the blood of those who fought for separation and those who sought to retain union and of the shifting constitution of political solidarity (In Celebration of U.S.Independence Day 2021--Revolution and Solidarity). The Russo-Ukrainian war of 2022 serves as an application of the general principles memorialized in the document and then incarnated in the sacrifices that come with rebellion, separation, and the constitution of political solidarity.
Purification and its rituals has acquired a peculiar cultural-political dimension in the American Republic. The peculiarity arises from the appearance of what may be a more openly expressed sentiment that the Republic (understood as a space for solidarity among those with quite distinct approaches to purity) might be best served by its disintegration and rebirth--purified and better able to engage in those ritual practices that might produce a greater alignment with the pure ideal. The Bible suggests the appropriate imagery: "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." (Isaiah 48:10 KJV). That is the imagery that might be understood as most useful--of the furnace in which both pure and impure, heretofore amalgamated together, might be separated so that what is precious may be smelted out from the dross of that which ought to be cast aside.
18 Son of man, the house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver. 19 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you. (Ezekiel 22:18-20 KJV)
For those who increasingly hold these views, who view the Republic as corrupted by the impure which must be cast aside, it is necessary to cast the Republic itself into the furnace.
It is against these forces of purity (in its varied and incompatible, warring, forms); it is against this temptation to toss the Republic into the furnace of purification, that the commemoration of the proclamation of independence serves as a useful reminder. It is a useful reminder that the Republic was designed for the impure. It was made to express perfection through the solidarity of the imperfect. Its genius was cast in a very different furnace, one in which the combination of the pure and the impure, of the past and the present, might be bound together in the way that nature (now perhaps better understood as the interconnections between all of the elements of earth, living and not) make a whole. Perfection, and purification, at least in this Republic, is better expressed as the stability of diverse systems than of a homogeneity or in hierarchies of homogeneity, that the current fashionable embrace of purity suggests. In the less abstract language of Mitt Romney's 4th of July 2022 essay:
Bolstering our natural inclination toward wishful thinking are the carefully constructed, prejudice-confirming arguments from the usual gang of sophists, grifters, and truth-deniers. Watching angry commentators on cable news, I’m reminded of H. L. Mencken’s observation: “For every complex problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
On this day, then, one might celebrate the possibility that these great forces of purification might themselves all be cast back into the furnace to emerge not united but more conscious of the symbiosis that gives each their strength and that guards against their presumption.