By Shereen Siewert, Publisher

Wausau Pilot and Review

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

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 few elections not only lingers, but festers, sullying our state and 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.

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.

After 243 years, our nation continues governing itself and influencing all the nations of the world by its decisions and actions. The United States is a rarity among nations, surviving deep disagreements between regions, between races and between genders to prosper still, well into a third century of liberty. The country has survived contentious elections, riots, world wars and its own devastating civil war, which removed the terrible curse of slavery.

One thing we’ve learned on this bumpy ride from the 18th century is that Americans strive to do better. We continue the long, imperfect struggle to make sure that each of us is treated equally under the law and that opportunity is expanded. We argue among ourselves like the most dysfunctional family you can imagine, full of opinionated uncles, mischievous kids, scheming adults and not-all-there cousins. Amid this chaotic behavior, how do we manage to keep going? Could anybody have foreseen this strange and wild civic journey?

That’s why July 4, 1776, still feels like a miracle. From a fractious time, in a precarious place, our forefathers breathed life into a new nation that still survives — even flourishes.

The United States could have gone off the rails many times along the way, but somehow, men and women of character and courage have emerged to guide us back on course.

We are blessed such people keep arising from among us. We are glad of their bravery, in speaking out against injustice and cruelty, and firmly defending the right of others to express their own views.

Bravery in 1776; bravery today. Somehow, the circle remains unbroken.