Most spiritual people I know feel very uncomfortable around July 4. It's not just the fireworks and ultra-nationalist sentiments that get unleashed every Independence Day. It's also that the holiday has focused on "bombs bursting in air" rather than the beautiful spiritual foundations on which America was founded and which continue to be an important element in our collective unconscious.
Yet because the holiday has devolved into picnics, parades, and fireworks, we rarely get an opportunity to express our gratitude for that which deserves to be celebrated in America.
Our country's spiritual and religious communities should take the lead in re-shaping July 4 as a moment of holy celebration. As a model for this commemoration, I would like to suggest that we use the single most popular ritual in the Jewish world: the Passover seder, at which the story of Jewish liberation is told and retold each year, with the help of a book that contains a narrative of the story and instructions on the seder's main rituals--the Haggadah (literally: "the telling").
We need an American seder to celebrate all that is good in America--most significantly to celebrate the liberation elements in the 1776 revolution, ideals that were again actualized in the struggles of working people, African Americans, women, homosexuals, and minority groups like Jews, Italians, Irish, Hispanics, and Asians, which contributed so much to the building of a tolerant, multicultural--yet still deeply flawed--society.
This country has been a miracle in its generosity to Jews and to others. It has created democratic expectations and hopes; though many of these have yet to be entirely fulfilled even in America itself, these ideals nevertheless have had a revolutionary impact throughout the world. I obviously do not need to be reminded of the imperialism, sexism, and racism that this country often perpetuates. That, too, must be acknowledged. But once a year it makes sense to celebrate what is so very good about the United States of America.