Around Independence Day, we often examine our reasons for being proud of our country and count our blessings for living in America. To celebrate this holiday, we eat ourselves silly at picnics and backyard barbeques, take advantage of sidewalk sales, listen to patriotic music, have fun in the sun, drag out all things red, white, and blue, and set off thousands of dollars worth of fireworks. We fairly explode with pride in our country.
I went to the lake to see the magnificent fireworks shooting into the sky over the dam. The display was rivaled by nature’s thunder and lightning. I overheard a woman talking about her plans to watch a pyrotechnical display in a nearby town the next night. She said the best vantage point was the nursing home parking lot. I thought of how Jim hated the sounds of fireworks because they sounded like war to him. I tried to keep him away from the sights and sounds of the holiday. Do you know what an impossible task that is? I wonder if other people with dementia might not understand why the night is full of loud booms and bright lights.
No doubt, we live in an amazing country with opportunity for all. This doesn’t mean everyone appreciates the wide-wonderful country we call home. We find a lot to complain about on a regular basis—the price of a gallon of gas, the government (especially when our political party is not in power), the weather, taxes, and all those immigrants—illegal or not.
This country was built on immigration. Other than Native Americans, we are in this wonderful country because our ancestors pulled up roots and transplanted themselves in America. I cannot imagine how a person could leave his homeland and start over in a new land, or in a new world, as it was known. They came here knowing they would never go home again. To me, this is as attractive as it would be to move to a different planet.
Our newspaper ran a contest for local people to write about why they were proud to be an American in fifty words or less. Since Saturday morning was a more laidback day than normal, I read the short, short essays written by proud Americans. One really caught my eye. Vietnam veteran, Larry D. Stevenson, wrote: “Drafted into the Army, served a tour in Vietnam where I was involved in heavy combat. Received this nation’s second highest combat award, the Silver Star. Came home to a country in turmoil over the conflict. What makes me proud of that? The rights we, as Americans, have to voice our opinions for or against our government’s actions.”
When we can be proudest of the freedoms that hurt us most, we have achieved a higher level. I’ve often noticed that the men and women who have sacrificed the most for this country understand this more than others.
We aren’t proud of our country because everything is perfect. Part of the amazing part about our country is the way we embrace the imperfect, contrary to our own personal preferences, and our tolerance for the melting pot of nationalities and personalities that make up the citizens of this country.
We can bellyache about what is wrong in this country fully confident that although others might not like it, they can’t stop us. Before we label a practice or person as “un-American” it is time to give serious thought to want makes America special. Could it be that the very things we think are un-American are, indeed, the embodiment of why this is a great country?
Copyright © L. S. Fisher July 2011