Friday, July 4, 2008

This Great Nation

Happy Fourth of July! I hope this post finds you well, and enjoying the celebrations of our great nation!

I love the Fourth. Not for the barbeque, the fireworks, the chance to see Uncle Sam on stilts, or even the all day patriotic country songs on the radio (my favorite is Johnny Cash's "Ragged Old Flag"). Well, okay, I love it for all of those reasons, but I also love it because it is a celebration of what I truly believe to be the greatest experiment in democracy.

On this day, I like to truly reflect on how amazing our country truly is. And as you are here, you can reflect too. I don't think this will be a long post, just a brief discussion of this unique land.

We are a country formed by rebels. Men and women came to this country to start over, to seek new fortune. Second sons who had no fortune or land came to try their luck in a rough country. Persecuted religious groups sought freedom from persecution. America was the land of opportunity, and those who came here, dating back to the Norse explorers, found a land brimming with opportunity.

Then came the moment for freedom. Men who had everything to lose came together to demand a country built on the rights of the people. It is easy today to dismiss them as men who wanted to exploit and get rich by making their own rules. It is easy from our safe distance in history to ignore the dangers that these men faced in declaring their independence. But please do not simply gloss over the fact that by signing and sending the Declaration of Independence, these men damned themselves. To say to the most powerful empire in the world, "We will be finished with you now" took guts, brains, and passion. To condemn their families to years of poverty and death just so that something dreamed up in a stuffy Pennsylvania courthouse could have a chance, ONLY A CHANCE, to come to fruition. To know that failure meant less privilege for the colonies and hanging for the instigators. To know all of this, and to fight on anyway. THAT is an amazing action. THAT is what America was founded on.

And we won. Then America took to the business of building a United States, a unique form of government. Ideas were taken from ancient philosophy, French and English idealists, and even Native American government, but the end result was a new beast.

I could type forever about the way the experiment has gone, what has worked and what has not. The cost, especially to the Native American population of America's success, but I want to end in a focus on what America has always stood for, and why, on this Independence Day I think we Americans need, more than ever, to focus on who we are.

We are a beacon for acceptance and freedom. That does not mean we each individually accept every person and idea that is ever thought. It means that as a nation we accept every different thought. Allow it to try to survive. And, let it die off if it is not good. People groups from all over the world have moved to America to start a better life. Many, upon arrival, found that individual people did not like them. "No Irish Need Apply", "No Jews Allowed", "White Only" are all notices seen in America in the past. And individuals still hate and fight against some of these groups. BUT as a nation, we have created a place where people can have a voice, even if no one likes them.

We have a nation where on can be a neo-nazi white supremacist and openly write or speak about his/her hate. I may despise every word that comes out, but that person can say it without fear of being arrested.

We have a nation where an immigrant trying to start a new life with his family can work, get his child an education, and better himself without fear of being hunted down by those in power. Whether you want the immigrant here or not, this is a nation that gives them rights and shelter, and I am damn proud of that.

We are even a nation where a person can say that they hate the government, hate democracy, hate the President, and wish that the Communists had taken over. And they won't be arrested. Today, all over the world there are countries where expressing even the slightest dissatisfaction with those in power will get you arrested or even killed.

This country has its problems. The experiment at times is running pretty rough. But it is still a grand land where freedom reigns. It is cool these days to bash on America. It is not cool to be an American abroad. It is not cool to be proud of this country. I am therefore not cool. Because I love this nation, I love its promise.

I think to maintain this nation's promise we all must be diligent, well educated and aware of our world. We must know what the rights we need to fight for our, and how we can, within the government set up around us, change what we don't like. I think America can be a beacon to the world again. And this Fourth of July, I just want to say, I will fight like Hell to see that I do my part, and pray to heaven that ya'll continue to do yours.

In closing, I would like to thank any and all service men and women for their part in defending and supporting our country. Your sacrifice and passions keep America safe, keep America running, and should never be dragged through political mud. Every nation must have its honored warriors who keep the people free to live (and blog). You do that for us. Our thanks, my gratitude can never be conveyed here in full, but please know that I am honored to live in a country protected and served by you.

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