I love America.
I really do. I might not be patriotic in the way my father’s generation is patriotic. But I still love my country. That said, I don’t believe this country is the best or perfect. Clearly, we as a nation have a laundry list of issues–big and small issues–that make life in this country very difficult for a lot of Americans. And that’s not okay. That will never be okay. Still, I love America.
Amid all of the debates, fights, and conversations surrounding the social, political, economic, and spiritual divisions that exist in this country, I think it’s easy to forget the numerous liberties and privileges that a United States citizenship offers us. We have the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly and the freedom to celebrate God however we deem appropriate or if we don’t want to celebrate/believe in God, not at all. And while in some cases those freedoms have been amended to protect the rights/freedoms of individuals/minorities and oftentimes, prior to enjoying those freedoms, you have to fill out lots of paperwork and/or seek permission, those freedoms exist.
Sure, some Americans take advantage of those freedoms. Some Americans use those freedoms as a way to limit or hurt or make life difficult for other Americans–a frustrating symptom of being a free people. But the large majority of the 330 million Americans–despite disagreements or varying ideologies–celebrate and honor those freedoms with sincere dignity.
And that’s a beautiful thing.
Many of us complain about our government–and my gosh, there are certainly good reasons to complain–but as somebody who has a U.S. passport and has, over the last 10 years, traveled to numerous countries around the world, I’ve started to realize just how much our national, state, and local governments get right. While our laws and leaders are hardly perfect (in some cases, they’re corrupt), most do provide and manage for the majority of us a very functional way of everyday living. And while some may not like admitting this: our governments are pretty awesome! I mean, because of our governments, we have people who build roads, people who fix roads, and people who work to ensure that those driving on the roads are doing so safely and according to the laws. While mass confusion on the highways is unavoidable at times, because of our government, those instances are somewhat rare and when they happen, people show up to guide traffic in a safe and orderly manner. Because of our governments, we can dial 911 on our iPhones and in most cases have an entourage of trained professionals show up within minutes to help us navigate any number of emergency situations. And while that might not seem like a big deal to those of us who live here, the majority of the world’s people don’t have access to that kind of help. They don’t have people to call. They don’t have processes and people that are paid and/or volunteer to come assist them. Sure, sometimes the systems breakdown or a person fails to do their job, but again, those instances are rare. When we’re in trouble, a rescue team is sent. When we are sick or hurt, we’re taken to amazing hospitals where we are served by trained health care professionals who not only help us to the best of their abilities, they wash their hands before and after.
For all that is wrong in America our governments, our laws, our freedoms make living here pretty awesome for the majority of us. And even when people and processes fail, usually there’s a method in which one can engage to make it right.
I love America. Yes, wealthy people seem to have special privileges in this country and in many cases, that sucks, but here in America, we’re also blessed to have a wide variety of welfare programs available to help people in need or people who are down on their luck. In America, we have shelters and housing programs to offer people a place to stay or, in some cases, a place to live. In many cases, here in America, we have programs available to help people who are fighting addictions, processing grief, overwhelmed by debt, unable to find jobs, being abused by a loved one, and the list goes on. Here, when we notice something that isn’t right, we usually have somebody to call to complain to, to ask for help, to complain to and then ask for help. Again, these programs and processes aren’t always managed perfectly, but we have them in place and for many people in a variety of circumstances, they work.
America might not be perfect, but we have public schools, public libraries, NPR, national and state parks, rest stops, monuments, the FDA, the FBI, interstates and freeways, bridges and tunnels, scenic highways and overlooks, public beaches and bathrooms… And we have signage! Do you realize how lucky we are to have signs–road signs, warning signs, tourism signs, etc.? Heck, in some cases, we have signs that are just there to make you aware of future signs. That’s amazing.
I get frustrated when I hear people say that America is going to hell in a hand basket because a law has changed or because a new people group is given equal rights under the law. Because I, like many of you, have met people around the world who live in places that look, feel, and smell a lot like hell and many of them would give up a whole lot in order to have the privileges that one experiences just because they’re an American. That’s one of reasons why I thank God for our freedom to protest, our freedom to picket, and our freedom to speak out against America when we believe that’s necessary. I love America because I believe this country has the capacity to change, to unite, to make progress, and when necessary, to change again and sometimes divide in order to make progress. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always quick. But most of the time, we have a voice and if we combine with other voices, we can make changes.
For all that we get wrong in this country, we often showcase an ability to evolve, to make our wrongs right, and to change our laws when somebody or lots of some bodies aren’t being treated equally under the law.
Sure, we have a long way to go. And we’ll never be perfect.
But let’s not allow all of our country’s flaws keep us from realizing, celebrating, and putting to good use the numerous liberties and privileges that most of us enjoy as Americans.
I’m not very patriotic–I mean, if I’m honest, the Pledge of Allegiance makes me squirm–but that said, I do love America. And I will always do my best to acknowledge, celebrate, and utilize the liberties and privileges that my country provides me to better what I can, to speak up for those who can’t, and to empower my children in hopes that they will do the same.
I might be progressive. I might not be overly patriotic. I might hate that Lee Greenwood song. But I love my awesome but imperfect America.
Happy Fourth of July…