Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Birthday, America.

Today we mark 237 years of existence. Nice run.

There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that we live in a country where we enjoy certain freedoms not available anywhere else in the world, and for that I am grateful. To think that I could have been born in, say, Iraq or North Korea, but instead was conceived in Akron , Ohio, and therefore by birth I am granted the benefits this country offers, is quite humbling of a thought.

If you feel a “but” coming, you’re right.

Those who know me know I tend to not only see the positives of a situation, but also what could be improved. And in today’s America, there is much that can be improved. But on this day, July 4, I will respect the country’s birthday and not go into what those areas of improvement are.

But (there it is), I will say this: I am no less an American for wishing for a better country than those who quickly slap back with the ‘Love it or leave it’ mantra. I don’t have to love America in order to stay here; that’s not a prerequisite to my citizenship. I don’t have to stay silent on issues such as veterans sleeping on the streets or children going hungry when the nearby grocery store bulges with food. We can do better, a lot better.

Which leads to my main point – Patriotism in not a political issue.

Yeah, well, tell that to the two main political parties.

My good friend, who is a veteran, just posted on his Facebook page the Lee Greenwood video ‘Proud to be an American,’ which I would certainly expect from him. What sickened me about it was Sarah Palin standing next to him smiling.

Yes. It is sickening to think some public figures use patriotism for political advantage, as if to say, I am more patriotic than those whiners over there. Vote for me.


Look, we are all Americans. By birth, therefore by default. And you would certainly think anyone running for political office simply wants what is best for this country, regardless of political affiliation. Some think that means government should get out of our lives. Some think that means government should help those too unfortunate to help themselves. Some think people should pick themselves by their bootstraps. Some want to offer boots to them first.

Whatever. That’s all in your political beliefs.

But none is ‘more American’ than the other.

We hear from certain groups that, if the policies of the other party are followed, the country will be ruined. I doubt that. Fortunately, we have a governmental structure which divides up power evenly such that no one person – or party – has too much power. In other words, no one group can screw things up.

What can screw us up? Simple.

We. The People.

How? Again, simple.

By turning on each other. By believing the hype and paranoia of elected officials who claim that ‘The Enemy” is people who don’t think like they do. You know, other Americans who are doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights.

That’s our Achilles Heel. Those who would divide us, who would like us into ‘Us Versus Them’ camps. Who would then say, if you don’t think like we do, then you’re not as patriotic as us, and, therefore, not as American as us.

Those are the people who scare me.

So, on this birthday of the country of my birth, I wish us a future of common unity based on our founding principles – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And dissent.

Because people who don’t think like you are patriots too.

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