In the aftermath of our country’s celebrating itself there have to be many Americans left pondering – and appreciating – what the United States means to them and to the rest of the world.

Freedom especially, even while the madness of terrorism seems to be eroding the full experience of the core concept of democracy, Americans by and large refuse to give in to the hovering threats of jihad and hatred stamped with a so-called will of a God that is far beyond our understanding.

The God in whom most Americans trust is one of peace and acceptance, love and energy, who works with and within us to create a better world for all peoples not just our own.

What makes America different is its claim on independence and a strong and stubborn solidarity, especially when our freedoms are at risk.

Our independence renders our country free to become what its founders envisioned. America is a mix of the world’s people, gifted and needy, who find here a freedom to be themselves, to voice their truth and give their children a life better than their own.

Far from the ideal of its dreams, America struggles to confront its shortcomings under the eyes and envy of much of the world, and against the hatreds of those who fear and fail to understand our definition of freedom.

Our solidarity is all about unity rather than righteousness. While our diversity may seem a weakness economically, which it is, in times of crisis it is our greatest strength.

No other proof is needed for that than the aftermath of 9/11 and the Boston bombings, though our history holds many other examples.

We are a people aware of the uniqueness of our Constitution and the power of our dreams. We may be too young, still, as a nation to “get it right,” but give us a cause or a crisis, and we do, at least for a time. Solidarity is the inherited stubbornness previous generations of Americans have passed along to us.

Democracy is another word for responsibility. To wish and work for a better life for oneself, which all are encouraged to do, is to miss the full meaning of our form of government.

Philosophically, all may be created equal, but in reality – and in any democracy – equality is a myth and has been, on both sides of history.

Democracy and diversity are mirror-images. The inequalities among us, though they can be seen too easily as divisive, should make us all responsible to better ourselves and our world while doing so.

Independence is our union card, solidarity our meeting place and true democracy the agenda for us all.