On this 4th of July at my age I see myself more of a spectator of life rather than an active participant. Please do not get me wrong. I simply feel these days that our country and what’s next belong more to those coming after me than to myself. I have had my chance to give my best efforts to make my little piece of time meaningful. I am not finished yet but I feel my voice and my touch are, if not tentative, softer and lighter than in my younger years. Thus, “spectator” seems to fit, mostly, but what I am seeing is unsettling.

I have never liked labels but “progressive idealist” fits my current mind-set. Both terms hold important meanings for me but together they capture, I believe, a philosophy and outlook on life.

I have been what I call a tame idealist for as long as I can remember. “Tame” in the sense that my ideals are not at war with the world but merely dreams of perfection since over the years I have learned that perfection, like wholeness, is essentially beyond reach. That realization, however, has rarely diminished my motivation to want and be the best while sanely learning to accept others and existence as they are. Fortunately the piece of poet in me enables that.

As a “progressive” I recognize and honor the plus-side of both conservative and liberal mind-sets while believing in the importance and benefits of tradition and the process of change. Admittedly my idealism as described above is an essential component of this and is tempered by, I believe, a balanced sensitivity. The progressive part of me is mostly about questions whose answers are more like possibilities rather than solid solutions. Progress, after all, is a process, like life itself.

The downside of the label is not so pretty. Being human I have too often come up short of being the best of myself. But I can be grateful that even the worst in me has helped to bring me here. There is a lesson in that for this spectator and, perhaps, for others on this 4th of July.

What I am seeing these days in our country – its  politics, culture, the erosion of morality, the lack of social justice, the arrogance and abuse of power and the seductions of greed – while unsettling, tells my tame idealist to remember that progress, like growing, can happen even through the worst of times.

There are no answers in this thought but the belief in progress gives this spectator hope, if not patience, for our country eventually fulfilling its destiny.

Happy Birthday, America!