The Personalities that Created American Democracy

Dear Readers: I wish you all a happy Fourth of July in whatever way you do (or don’t) acknowledge the day! Here in the USA, July 4th is when we celebrate the signing of our Declaration of Independence in 1776, an act that formalized our move from a colony of Great Britain to an independent nation fashioned as a democracy. George Washington called it the Great Experiment. And while we have lasted over 200 years, these days it seems more appropriate than ever to honor and celebrate our bold creation.

By anyone’s standards, breaking from Great Britain was a dangerous move, and I’ve always wondered what it must have been like to be one of those early colonists. Several years ago, I had an animated discussion with a friend who announced that she was sure the early colonists were all Wood elemental personalities. When I asked why, she said that Wood people are the adventuresome, bossy types who get things done. We laughed, but then had an excellent discussion that concluded with the firm belief it took all of the elemental personalities to create and claim American independence.

To honor the anniversary of America’s declared intent to be an independent nation based on democratic principles, I would like to share a brief summary of how important each elemental personality was to the creation of the United States of America.

Water Personalities: Water people dream big. Before America declared her independence from Great Britain, no colony had broken away from the mother nation. It was unthinkable to most, but not to Water people. They are the dreamers, the inventors, the ones who wonder, “What if?” or ask, “Why not?” Coming to America as a colonist took a belief in something better, so there were definitely Water personalities among the American colonists. And the idea of democracy? It definitely owes its beginnings to the philosophic ponderings of Water personalities back in ancient Greece.

Wood Personalities: As my friend pointed out, Wood people are the “make it happen” people. They have profound personal energy resources that allow them to move mountains, if necessary, in service to a goal. They are also strong believers in fairness. Taxation without representation wasn’t fair to the American colonists, and the Wood people of those days would certainly have willingly fought for the cause of independence. Wood personalities are also excellent strategic thinkers, so brought that skill to the military engagements necessary to win the war. Finally, Wood people usually do well in politics, so the Continental Congress that declared independence from Great Britain absolutely had Wood personalities in it.

Fire Personalities: Fire people have less structure than any of the other elemental personalities, which makes it easier for them to shift and change when a situation calls for it. They are also very excitable, so can use their energy to literally “light a fire” under anyone or anything. Amazing orators have a lot of Fire in their personalities – as does anyone who can inspire others to act – so there were definitely Fire people in the colonies lending their support to the excitement of starting a new nation. Fire people also easily make instant connections with others, including strangers. They accept people as they find them and can bring cohesion to any group. Fire personalities definitely contributed to molding the United States of America from a group of disparate people to a unified nation.

Earth Personalities: Earth people would have been the ones most torn apart by the idea of independence from Great Britain. They form deep and lasting connections with almost everyone and everything. Most colonists still thought of themselves as subjects of the English crown, so letting go of that identity would have been difficult for the Earth personalities in the colonies. However, they also likely had strong connections to the land that was America, so ultimately would have felt the wisdom of declaring themselves to be citizens of the new country. Because of this, and their strong dislike of conflict of any kind, the revolutionary period was probably a difficult time for the Earth personalities in the colonies.

Metal Personalities: Metal people are the synthesizers of the world. They examine situations and easily determine what they believe to be right, and wrong. Back in the revolutionary days, having a say in how one is governed would have been “right.” Taxation without representation would have been “wrong.” And because Metal people sit at the end of the Five Elements cycle, they are often the ultimate discerners of what is good and what is bad. Good is kept, bad is released. For Metal personalities in the colonies those days, it would have been a fairly easy decision to fight for independence. It was the right thing to do.

Just as it took all five of the elemental personalities to create the whole that is America, it takes all of them to keep us true to who we are. In honor of the democracy called into being on July 4, 1776, I leave you with a quote from Terry Tempest Williams whose words speak clearly for all of the elemental personalities.

“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?”

Happy July 4th to all! May the ideals embraced by the American colonists over two centuries ago thrive in our country, and the world, today.

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