Having traveled internationally, I’m sometimes asked how I feel about being American – specifically, our place in the world. The person asking is usually genuinely curious, looking for a political answer or hoping to dispel negative press they’ve heard in the news.
My thoughts on this are usually a lot simpler than what they are expecting. In honor of July 4th, I give you those thoughts.
If you are an American, you have freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion and the right to bear arms. Some countries don’t have one of those, and you have all five.
You vote on your leaders.
Your rights are protected.
You have access to clean water.
Education is mandatory, and literacy is seen as a basic right.
Government corruption still makes headlines.
The healthcare “crisis” is not a lack of life-saving care, but simply an issue of who pays for it.
While we may crucify the 2% among us in Occupy WallStreet, we realize that, around the world, comparatively, we are the 2%.
We are so sensitive to racial incidents that a police officer bullying a minority causes riots for weeks.
In other countries, a racially motivated crime against those in a house of worship would go unnoticed. In America, it gets a visit from the president.
America isn’t perfect, but regardless of what someone halfway around the world remarks or someone standing in your own backyard complains about, this country is great and still stands for great things.
You have a government that overspends, a nation that overconsumes, a rising welfare state and yet…America is still great.
In the words of William J. Clinton, “There is nothing wrong with America that what is right with America can’t fix.”
She is great because the lifeblood that runs through our country is that of the human spirit. That hope, independence, decency and hard work are still the backbone of what the flag stands for.
This is not an over-romanticized view of America…It’s simply a frank appraisal of a nation with faults that still leads the world in too many categories to count.
So if you are American, you may celebrate today the gift of living in such a country.
If you are American, may you understand the responsibility that comes with that.
If there is one sobering admonition in this post, let it words of Abraham Lincoln, just as timely today as they were back then, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
If you are American, let that be your sworn duty to protect.
If you are American, use your freedom for this world, for your country’s place in it, and for your place in it.
Happy 239th birthday to the USA.
Happy Independence Day,