Happy Independence Day!
I heard an interview yesterday with a progressive, left-wing documentary filmmaker who did a documentary on naturalization ceremonies in all 50 states, highlighting what’s right about immigration (1 million new citizens per year!) and what’s right about America in the eyes of our new immigrants (everything from freedom of speech to public displays of affection and hot dogs). One of the things she said that made me think was that while there was plenty to find ‘wrong’ with our immigration policies she wanted to make a movie that focused only on what was right (without being schmaltzy).
I thought that was a great idea.
So today I’m going to focus on just some of the things I truly love about this great country. Because, despite all our flaws, it IS a great country. People have risked and lost their lives both to defend this country and to get here. So for those of us lucky enough to have been born here, it’s a good thing to appreciate all that’s right – the big things (the Bill of Rights and the Constitution) and the little things (Starbucks, Wi-Fi and bratwurst would make my list).
Here’s a few without any caveats (though caveats there may be):
- Our Constitution
- Our 3-tiered government – checks and balances built in
- The Bill of Rights (my favorite governmental document)
- Our Founding Fathers – the more I learn about them the more impressed I am (and as an aside – did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 – 50 years to the day after the birth of this nation – amazing, right?)
- Our continued focus on independence – being able to say what you need to say, be who you are
- The melting pot. I was in Europe once when America was behaving badly and said something to that effect to the German couple with whom Sue and I were conversing (we were in Scotland) and they told me we should be very proud of America’s diversity – that they had seen people from more nations in one weekend in Los Angeles than they had encountered in their whole lives in Germany. This is one of my favorite parts of America. Because not only do we get an influx of new ideas and new energy, but at a very quotidian level we get all that great food!
- And some of America’s “American food” is just fantastic – the menus for Thanksgiving and 4th of July come to mind. I haven’t eaten a hot dog in probably 30 years but I don’t think I could do summer without bratwurst with strong mustard. Watermelon? Bring it on! Good coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans – don’t call me twice, I’ve already got my fork out. And while I don’t eat pastries anymore, I still remember the cherry pies my mama would make from our cherry tree (or my sister’s over the top pies) – yum!
- Freedom of the press. This may be the hardest one for me not to say “but…” with – but I’ll just say – NPR, PBS, the Internet, Huffington Post – even the polemic talk show guys (on both sides) – we’re lucky to get to “say what you have to say” without being thrown in jail or censored. Really we are.
- The stunning, stand-out physical beauty of this country. I mean really, do we live in a gorgeous land or what?! I think people naturally think of the Rockies or the California coast or the rugged coast of Maine, but every state in this country has some stunningly beautiful parts. For my readers who consider my beloved Midwest “flyover territory” I would say come to my great jewel of a city (Chicago) or check out the rugged Upper Peninsula of Michigan or the Mississippi river between Minnesota and Wisconsin. We have a beautiful country – all of it.
- Our flag. On Friday afternoon I was walking to the train at Oglivie Transportation Center where I catch my commuter train and saw a HUGE flag hanging in the train station and found myself choking up a bit.
- “America the Beautiful” – if you want my two cents THIS should have been our national anthem, not the one about bombs. I LOVE this song and again am surprised that I often choke up when I hear it.
- “This Land is Your Land” – similarly, Woody Guthrie’s “people’s anthem” really stirs the heart – this land IS my land – from California to the New York Island
- Baseball. I was a fanatic as a child, and whilst I can’t truly claim to be much of a good fan anymore (I will say – it IS discouraging to be a Cubs fan) I love our national pastime and how American it seems.
- Country music and bluegrass. Not for everyone, I know, but I love how country music tells stories. And bluegrass, born, as I was, from Celtic stock, always puts a spring in my step
- The many heroes this country has produced. Too many to name, but let me call out a few : the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, FDR, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Emma Goldman, Babe Ruth, and my two favorite American heroes, Bobby Kennedy and George R. Scholten. This country has birthed GREAT people!
And I’ve saved the best for last:
- 3. Our right to dissent. We were born as a nation “speaking our piece” and that right continues – to me, one of our most precious rights
- 2. Freedom of religion. And the fact that we have so many. I embrace and welcome them all and remind us all that this was the exact cause on which this country was founded – religious freedom. Long may it prevail!
- 1. the people! What a great bunch of people. Like any family we have our characters, but I believe Americans as a people are really good people. Whilst I may not always be proud of our policies or actions, I am proud of what we stand for and proud to join myself with the PEOPLE of America
And on this Independence Day I am grateful for all who have served this country heartfully – not just our military, but all who have done public service for the greater good. The librarians, the guy who cuts the grass at public parks, the school board presidents – all who have, from their hearts, worked to make America better.
And I thank too all who have, from their hearts, spoken out, started initiatives, spearheaded campaigns for change – who have put their beliefs into action.
Special tip of the hat today to the Founding Fathers – they built a pretty darned good house overall.
Happy Birthday, America! Despite our little spats, I truly do love you!