Happy Birthday, America
We’re just one week away from the Fourth of July and our nation’s 243rd birthday. I admit it: I’m an old softie when it comes to celebrating the United States of America and what it has meant to the world.
That said, I was never a fan of such slogans as “America: Love it or Leave It,” or “My Country, Right or Wrong.”
From such blind loyalty come too many negative sentiments. And, the strange habit of espousing freedom of speech because it is enshrined in the First Amendment, yet roundly attacking anyone who exercises it to express a contrary opinion.
Beacon of Light
Still, as a beacon of democracy, the USA has helped propel freedom to center stage in civilization when, historically speaking, much of the world bowed to the whims of dictators and kings.
In recent times, I’ve heard immigrants from China and India talk about their love for America because of its welcoming posture, openness to all, and glorious freedoms.
I think more people who grew up here and often take what we have for granted should reflect on such statements. They are apt reminders that the U.S. is a pretty good place despite its shortcomings.
One that, by the way, I hope never falls into the madness of socialism.
After all, which socialist utopia would its advocates embrace: China, which now spies on its citizens’ every move; North Korea, which starves its people; the failed Soviet Union; or the insanity known as Venezuela?
Yet, to throw in the towel and say we can never overcome such problems is to bow to defeatism and negativity.
I say this not from an insensitive, uninformed perspective, but because of a fascinating passage in Thomas Friedman’s book, Thank You for Being Late.
Originally released in 2016, I recently finished reading an updated edition of the New York Times’ columnist’s chronicle of the oft-bewildering changes of technology and related areas buffeting the modern world.
His review of the technological changes in the world included observations of a parallel need for societies across the planet to be open to people from other cultures, races, and classes.
He used the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park where he grew up as an example.
By his account, the city was a progressive enclave that opened its doors to minorities and Jews at a time when Minneapolis was anything but welcoming to such folks.
Yet, in the midst of this discussion, Friedman included a comment from Sondra Samuels, an African-American who grew up on the East Coast.
She wasn’t shy about speaking up about racial injustice, particularly when she observed it around Minneapolis.
After recalling some of the things she protested, Friedman wrote:
When she would give vent to her passion to struggle against racial injustice growing up, Samuels recalled, “My father used to say to me, ‘Sandy, when you find that country that’s better than this one, you tell me and we’ll go live there together . . . ’ I always got stumped by that.”
Glad to be Here
Now, I’ve never lived anywhere else, nor do I have the desire to move.
But I think in the polarized, highly fractious times in which we live, way too many folks get caught up in making the U.S. a whipping boy for its perceived evils while ignoring its positives.
Like Sondra Samuels’ father would say: When you find that country that’s better than this, you tell me and we’ll go live there.
Happy Birthday, America. 🎂