In keeping with a popular theme making the rounds, I thought I’d point out that the 2nd of July 1776 was the day the Colonies actually announced our independence. The full text of the Declaration was accepted on the 4th of July, but the document was signed on the 2nd of August. John Adams truly believed 2 July was going to be Independence Day. What did he know?

There are terms I hate seeing on social media. Here are two: “Fake news” and “mainstream media”.

First, they were invented by a media outlet that produces the most “fake” news of all; that’s just a well researched and substantiated fact, not an opinion or a political stance.

But an important lesson was learned. Say the same phrase often enough, long enough, and it will become a catch-phrase. People will believe it.

I used the term fake news to make a point. A tripod is unstable. How many of us eat off a table with three legs? Better to have four, correct? The Fourth Estate, aka journalism, is needed for a reason.

The trend in our country now is for people to find a stream of “media” that fits their views and to stick with it. To never be challenged in what they believe. To have what they believe reinforced. And, more importantly, to have what they fear, pushed in their face.

There is extremism on both ends of the spectrum and it’s allowed out country to be successfully invaded. Not just invaded. We lost the cyber war. We’re not dead yet, but we’re teetering.

We’re not innocent in this; in fact we were one of the leaders in cyber warfare with Stutsnex. We attacked a country we are not legally at war with. We have our justifications, but they are our justifications. We are tremendously concerned, with good reason, with other countries developing nuclear weapons and also the ability to project that power at distances. What we must also remember is we have more nuclear weapons than any other country and the best means to project them. We also are the only country in the world that has shown the true willingness to use them; because we are the only country who has used them. Twice. We had our justifications.

The third phrase I hate is “Let’s make American great again.” I wonder when exactly that refers to? We’ve had some ups and downs in our history. As far as I know, no one who says that phrase has clarified exactly when they’re talking about. We’ve been good, but I’m not sure we’ve been great for an extended period of time. We’ve had moments of greatness. One that really makes me proud to be an American is the Berlin Airlift. We had our justification for it, but it also helped a lot of people and showed a determination that we can aspire to.

If I had to pick the greatness of America that sets it apart from almost all other countries it is this: we’re potluck. We’re a mixture of every race, religion, you name it, we got it. Anyone can walk down an American street and you simply can’t know if they are an American or a foreigner. There aren’t many countries in the world where they can’t tell who is local and who isn’t. (Native Americans might have a bone of contention here).

The past is done. What we must aspire to is to make America great. A more understanding country. A less belligerent one, even as we are still embroiled in the longest war (technically not a war, but something else, something as ill-defined as when we were great) in our history. We have combat troops on the ground in six other countries. Yet we are a country that wouldn’t tolerate another country’s combat troops on our soil for a nanosecond. We fly drones and use them to fire missiles over many other countries. Yet not for an instant would we tolerate that. We need to ruminate on that and consider what we’re doing. Is all this in our best, long-term interests? Is it in the world’s best, long-term interests.

Plus, we need to really reboot, because we just got our ass kicked in a war that is probably going to destroy the United States as we’ve known it. Never mind great. I’ll take survive.

I believe the vast majority of Americans are good people. With good intentions. Who are capable of greatness. But the fringe, on either side, has to be stopped. We have to beware of catch phrases. We can’t blithely believe things are clear cut. That there are easy answers. We have to listen to people we don’t agree with; with an open mind. Before we jump to outrage, let’s spend some time on understanding.

But the most important thing Americans have to do is stop being afraid. It is with our fear that we are being manipulated. Fear of strangers, fear of other religions, and the deepest fear of all: fear of change.

The world is changing. For good and bad. We have to face that with a core of courage and the willingness to do what it will take. We are on the precipice. Whether we fall or not is up to us.

Let’s make America great.