This Fourth of July, one might get the impression Utah has a problem with being part of the Union. The state’s political leaders are fighting the United States on several fronts:
Gay marriage » Despite an unending succession of federal court decisions throwing out same-sex marriage bans all over the nation, Utah leaders are still hoping the Supreme Court will let them tell thousands of American couples that their marriage licenses are useless here.
Public lands » A state legislator makes it his life’s work to make the United States relinquish much of its land to the state. Meanwhile, a San Juan County commissioner takes an illegal ATV ride through a sensitive canyon owned by the nation, with state legislators cheering him on.
Medicaid funding » Convinced that this federal money is different from the countless other federal funds that Utah takes every day, Utah legislators oppose accepting millions to expand health care coverage for the poor, literally putting some Utahns at risk of death for no better reason than to make a political point about Obamacare.
Climate change » Ignoring the nation’s brightest minds who say that continued burning of fossil fuels is overheating the planet, Utah’s leaders are dismissing the federal effort to make our coal-fired electricity less harmful to everyone inside and outside the state.
Yes, the federal government is a bloated beast in the hands of a paralytic political system. Yes, the examples of waste and mismanagement spill forth. To invoke Will Rogers, "Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for."
But, with apologies to those who live and die by the 10th Amendment, the United States succeeds because the states are united. States’ rights are an essential element, and government is best when it’s closest to the people. But our strength lies in our collective work across this whole nation.
In its 238-year history, this nation has twice tested the limits of a loose confederacy. The first time came in the first decade, when the Articles of Confederation failed and was replaced by the U.S. Constitution. The second time came when the Civil War divided the country before a stronger Union emerged with individual rights secured across all the states.
Utahns should be proud of their state’s uniqueness. It’s a perennial top finisher on lists of business- and family-friendly states. But make no mistake: the success that Utah has enjoyed would not be possible without the rest of the United States and its government. It protects us from harm and encourages our prosperity in countless ways.
We’re part of a great nation. We need to make it better, not demonize it. That is the real Utah way.
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