If you know or have read my history then you realize that, with good reason, I don’t always feel particularly American. And, yet, I possess enough knowledge and wisdom to know I would never abandon or give up my U.S. citizenship. It is an interesting internal conflict. I love the country where I was born and currently reside and, yet, I am often embarrassed or angered by her people or her actions toward one another and the rest of the planet. However, there are moments both profound and frivolous that illicit deeply sincere patriotic feelings within me. Strangely, July 4th … Independence Day … today (or any other year) is not one of those moments. I don’t particularly care for parades. Hot dogs are disgusting. And, I would gladly bid a fond farewell to fireworks for the rest of recorded time.
“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” ~Erma Bombeck
Traditional Fourth of July celebrations just don’t “do it” for me. What does? Well, I’m glad you asked.
My senior year of high school I chose to take American Government as an elective class. Yes, I was still in Kenya. It was, however, an election year. I would graduate from high school in July. In August I would turn 18 (voting age) and be in the United States for university. When November came … I would vote and I was not going in blind. I wanted to understand how the system worked. I wanted to know, without doubt, what made America great and for what, exactly, I was voting. I did vote that year and I have voted in every subsequent major election. I will not take that privilege for granted. And, without fail, I shed a tear or two as I am leaving my local polling station. In that moment … when I have just cast my ballot … despite the outcome … I am damn proud to be an American.
“To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” ~Louis L'Amour
A lifetime ago I used to be an athlete and I am, by nature, I highly competitive individual. Greatness in sport is a wonder to behold. The Olympics, in particular, bring out the patriot in me. I am not alone. Look at how we Americans have rallied behind Jesse Owens, Mary Lou Retton, Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps or the 1980 U.S. Ice Hockey Team … Miracle on Ice.
Screenwriters are geniuses. Enough said.
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Film (1939)
Independence Day, Film (1996)
Don’t scoff until you have seen a bald eagle up close … in the wild. Or, even more relevant, when you witness the release of an eagle that was injured and rehabilitated … and share in the freedom it experiences as it spreads its wings fully for the first time in many months and soars into the sky.
Have you ever been in an airport when a unit, or even five or six soldiers, stepped off an airplane and was greeted by a few smattering claps that slowly built into a full-blown applause as they proceeded through the airport terminal? I have. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. Forget the politics behind how we, as Americans, end up in conflicts around the globe. My heart cries out every time an American soldier dies protecting our freedom or protecting those who have no one else to protect them. I almost enrolled in the army after my first year of college. In retrospect, I should have done so. I think other countries are right about mandatory military service. There would be more benefits than drawbacks to every able bodied man and woman in this country spending two years in their military branch of choice once turning eighteen. [Please refrain from the hate mail. This is just an opinion.]
In truth, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood gets me. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Then again, I’m not a huge fan of country music but I can sing the lyrics to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue” as well. But, it would be remiss of me ... on this day … if I did not give you this:
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY to my fellow Americans.
Remember: We are all in this together.
“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” ~William J. Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America