It is easy enough to say what is wrong with America, but fortunately it is easier to say what is right. In honor of the Fourth, here are my ten things you should love about the United States in no particular order.
1. Americans: Let’s start with the people. Diverse, fun, and coming in every shape and color, an American usually does not take him or herself too seriously, but when their back is against the wall or there is work to be done, you can count on the American. American farmers feed the world and American soldiers have liberated distant lands. The list of American Nobel Prize winners , scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, and what have you is too extensive to even start with. Then there is the legendary American mother and the American childhood. That brings me to number two.
2. Family: In spite of the recent concern about marriage and family becoming passé, Americans are still a family oriented people. As it becomes less noticeable elsewhere in the world, this is still a place of kids running in the yard, dads barbecuing on the deck, soccer moms, and family reunions with oodles of cousins. Parents go to school plays, older sisters babysit their siblings and everyone has a favorite (and more than likely crazy) uncle or aunt. The family here can be counted on for lively debate about the likes of politics and religion, yet forget all of that when they have to be there for one another demonstrating alliance and an immeasurable love for which there are no words.
3. History: There is much of which we Americans should be proud and some things which we should not. In no instance do we ignore either. Our past is not sugarcoated, even if at times it is too painful for public discourse. Our struggle is one of increasing liberty and democratic values that in spite of setbacks has shown us “the moral arc is long, but it bends toward justice.”
4. Republican Virtue: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Those words form the cornerstone for a wellspring of thought that give the individual ownership of his or her life and tempers any tyranny that made be had by the majority in the Democratic State. The Republican virtue has brought down monarchies and dictators and has provided the correction necessary in our own history allowing our citizens increasing freedoms and a share in the ownership of the American State.
5. National Parks: Part playground and part sacred landscape, the National Park was born in America and nowhere else do these have such natural beauty or are more beloved than in the United States. Born of the democratic idea that the land belongs not to nobility, but to the people, writer Terry Tempest Williams points to our ownership of these when she says “each American can look into his or her heart and say this is my National Park.” Standing with one’s family, loved ones, or in solitude at the edge of a great canyon or with a towering mountain as a backdrop, our National Parks let us look at the Creator’s handiwork and proclaim anew that Creation is “very good.”
6. Towns: The neon lights of Broadway and the skyscrapers of the Loop all the way to the little towns with their agricultural festivals and Fourth of July parades show America is at its best in the gathered communities of its citizens. We have towns with Southern gentility and East Coast elegance, not to mention picked fences towns, ski resort towns, industrial towns, off the beaten path towns, cities with strollerhoods and hipster neighborhoods….the list goes on.
7. Regional Cuisine: Nobody does variance like the United States and as a people who like to eat, food is where this is most evident. Going on vacation and can’t decide between Boston or Charleston as they are both lovely, make lobster vs. biscuits and gravy the tie breaker.
8. The Road Trip: America is best seen on the open highway and the highway is another thing to love about America. Lake Shore Drive, Going to the Sun, Pacific Coast Highway, Trail Ridge, El Camino Sierra, Tail of the Dragon, and Route 66….we are filled with legendary drives. The American road trip has been a rite of passage for some and a voyage of self-discovery for others. On the road we can retrace the route of pioneers or recall our youth with the windows down and radio on. Time becomes surreal and meaningless on the road as we go through hours of farmland or prairie lost in conversation or thought to eventually run into a desert, mountain, or ocean.
9. Summer: As it is the Fourth, I must say there no place that does summer like America, perhaps because our nation was born in the summer or maybe because this is the birthplace of baseball and hot dogs. Like the road trip, time is suspended during the season and though Fall and the beginning of the school year snaps us back into reality, for three months, the days are eternal filled with fireworks and trips to the local ice cream stand.
10. Music: Every list ends somewhere and this ends with American sound. American music is the best. Granted that is an opinion, but one I make no apologies for. We may not be able to lay claim to Bach or Beethoven, but we did give the world jazz, rock, country, and rap. Every American can remember his or her first concert and no neighborhood or parish festival is complete without a band. And on this Independence Day, I will say that the Star Spangled Banner is hardly the Marseillaise, but that will not stop me from listening to it today.
Image: Richard Elzey, CC license