By Shereen Siewert, editor

Each year in central and northern Wisconsin, Independence Day arrives with a sense of joy, a mixture of patriotic pride and optimism.

But this year, somehow, the mood seems gloomier, the public attitude more pessimistic.

It shouldn’t be.

By all means, if you want to look for seeds of doubt to plant, there are plenty to be found. Just turn on the news for five minutes. The pervasive threat of terrorism, both foreign and home-grown, hangs over us like a shroud. The divisiveness of the last election cycle not only lingers, but festers, sullying our national politics. State government is mired in dysfunction, so much so that fundamental challenges like fixing Wisconsin’s weather-battered roads seem almost hopeless. And locally, the debate over spending and debt rages on, while law enforcement continues to battle a pervasive war against opioid abuse that plays out again and again throughout the city and beyond.

It’s easy to get down. This Independence Day bears witness to a relentless storm of problems.

But our problems can be solved, our challenges met. Despite our difficulties and differences, America remains the greatest country on Earth, with the highest ideals and aspirations.

The magic of the American idea is not one of perfection. After all, the Constitution itself was crafted by flawed men. They were slave owners, bigots, chauvinists. The beauty of the Constitution isn’t its purity or even its foresight. Rather, its beauty lies in its sense of mission and purpose, an American ideal that we are constantly in a process of perfecting.

That is the magic of America, that we move forever onward. It is what defines us, excites us, and motivates us to be better people, both individually and collectively.

America has done great things in the past. We can do great things still. But first, we must believe that we can.

This Independence Day, let us throw off negativity. Let us rejoice and be steadfast. Let us believe in America and all it stands for.

My country ’tis of thee

Sweet land of liberty

Of thee we sing.