Our celebration of Independence Day brings to mind the idea of American exceptionalism and what is meant by such a term.
Is it xenophobic arrogance or simply pride in our accomplishments?
Does it suggest that God favors certain nations more than those that seem constantly beset by a sea of troubles?
When we think of America, we pride ourselves on being a nation built not on the premise of domination but on individualism - of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
But we didn't invent it.
The concept of mutual respect and equal rights was born thousands of years before.
In fact, the roots can be traced to Iran.
Yes, that Iran.
A KING'S GIFT
The evidence for this is found in the Cyrus Cylinder, a Babylonian manuscript produced in Persia, the precursor of Iran.
Modern-day Iran is what can happen when you forget who you are.
Fragments of the Cyrus Cylinder, which were on exhibit in several American cities last month, was produced by King Cyrus the Great, a marvel given that ancient kings were not wont to advocate unfettered freedom.
Western experts who have studied the Cyrus Cylinder for more than 130 years say it advocates not only human rights but also religious freedom and tolerance for immigrants.
Iran has become Iran because its leaders have ignored and devalued their own unprecedented contribution to history.
They've failed to grasp that theocracy is no match for democracy.
We must take pains remember that for a republic to function properly, political dissent is not only healthy but also necessary. However, a debate absent civility is demagoguery.
As we increasingly disregard this tenet, we're in danger of becoming more intolerant, divisive, fearful, accusatory and angry. Discussion is devolving to little more than finger-pointing, to the place where finding solutions to our problems is no longer even the point.
Meanwhile, people living in the part of the world where the Cyrus Cylinder was inscribed are dying in the streets, all for a chance to experience even half the liberties we take for granted.
RIPE FOR LOSS
Freedom is not about fireworks. We take our liberties for granted when we neglect to do that which must be done to preserve them.
When we forget that America is not just a land mass but also an idea, when we can't be bothered to heed our history and the circumstances that brought us to this place, when we disrespect our forebears by trampling on their memories instead of standing on their shoulders, we become a nation at risk.
Page 2 of 2 - Our values are in danger of becoming distorted, as was the case with Iran when Persians saw democracy deposed because a few in power deemed a chance for personal wealth more important than their country's self-determination.
The presumption that we'll always be free, that nothing coud possibly upend that freedom, makes us ripe to lose it.
People brilliant enough to create the Cyrus Cylinder probably never thought they'd be living under a repressive regime — until they were.