Every year on the Fourth of July, early in the morning, a dear English friend sends me a note. It’s a very simple act, but it means everything to me. It gives me hope... A smart phone screen capture of a message. It reads
We tend to celebrate our revolution without really thinking about how truly horrific it was. American and British troops tortured each other, burned one another alive, and wantonly violated all established rules of warfare. Our nation was born of atrocity. nytimes.com/2017/05/19/boo…
Today, the progeny of men who brutally fought one another in places like Charleston, Trenton and Saratoga are the best of friends. Our countries have long been bonded by what Winston Churchill called “a Special Relationship.” I cheer for his football team. ⚽️ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
It doesn’t take hundreds of years to put aside the sort of hatred that permits human beings to torture, maim and kill one another. The Americans and Brits began that process soon after the War of 1812.
By the early 1900s, the descendants of men who sought to kill one another were laying down their lives for one another in World War I. The sort of forgiveness it takes for something like that to happen not at all unique to the United States and Great Britain.
I’ve shared meals in Japan, Germany and Cambodia with people who were old enough to remember American planes dropping death from the sky. We embraced one another like the brothers and sisters we are.
In El Salvador, Ethiopia and Colombia, I’ve raised glasses with former soldiers who once fought on opposites sides of civil wars. On each occasion, we drank late into the night. And they embraced one another like the brothers they are.
My nation today is as starkly and hatefully divided as I've ever seen it. When I imagine the future, it’s hard to see how we could ever reconcile our differences. And so I look to the past, and it makes it easier to see that humans are actually quite good at overcoming hatred.
For me, July 4 isn’t about the beginning of a nation (or anything resembling independence for anyone but white male land owners, many of whom also owned other people.) Instead, this day is a time to remember the power—and perhaps even the inevitability—of forgiveness.
Happy Fourth of July. And go #threelions!

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