I believe I was born bleeding red, white, and blue. I've always been easily moved by the sight of the American flag, the sound of "The Star Spangled Banner", and that undeniable sense of American pride on the multi-hued faces of my very diverse neighbors as we gathered each year for the big Fourth of July celebrations. My eyes would well with tears, my heart would be near-bursting with love, and I had no doubt I was living in the best country on earth.
I still feel that way today.
While many of my beliefs have changed over the years, my pride in being American has not. In fact, now, more than ever, I realize how blessed I am to have been born a citizen of this country. I have the right to worship as I please, if I please. I have the right to pursue my dreams, whatever they may be. I have the right to express my thoughts without fear of jail or death. And I can share all the beauty of these concepts with my children and my community.
As I look around me now, I see far too many people who are aggrieved at the mere notion of citizenship as an honor, community, or patriotism. Heaven forbid they find anything good in being American. I wonder why they haven't sought the greener pastures they believe lie elsewhere. I wonder why we must all be subjected to their every complaint about "what's wrong with America." We're not a perfect country, but we offer more freedoms and potential than most others. And, I know this is the very reason I end up listening to their complaints. They complain because they can. It's their right. It's also a part of what makes America such an interesting place to call home.
Now, I can't change anyone else's disposition or level of discontent, discord, or disgruntlement, but I can overlook them. Most of the time. This year, there has been a great hue and cry amongst the "activist" groups to speak out, loudly, on the day we celebrate our declaration of independence from tyrannical kings 200 plus years ago. These groups have plotted and planned to make their presence known in any manner possible, including disrupting our parades and fireworks displays. They are free to do so, but it fails to impress me as an effective recruiting method. The Fourth of July is a special day, a day when we come together as one to celebrate our freedoms. To call for protest against democracy and freedom on such a day is divisive and isolating. A bit ironic if you consider one of the groups calling for such protests is named United for Peace and Justice. What's so unifying in the shredding of the fabric of a community?
Over time, I've learned to seek out those who feel more as I do, those willing to sing out in unison as we watch our glorious flag flutter and whip in the winds of freedom above our heads. It is in this effort to surround myself with people eager to rejoice in community and fellowship that I found something extraordinary: a sense of place, of belonging. Even those who don't agree with my personal beliefs belong to this group.
I suppose it's too much to ask for a single day of togetherness. Don't we deserve a day when we can set aside our differences and personal or political agendas to embrace the very freedoms which afford us our disparate beliefs? I believe we do deserve such a day. The Fourth of July, Independence Day, is that day. I would gladly take my place beside anyone who disagrees with me, as long as we could agree to leave our differences at home and simply enjoy a moment of acceptance of our right to disagree.
I know my dream is a fairly grand one and likely not something we'll see anytime soon, but it warms my heart to believe it could happen. Until such time it does, I will continue to seek those who are willing to come together in celebration of freedom and democracy for the sake of our community at large.
For one day, we should all be proud to call ourselves Americans, especially when we have the right to do so.Powered by Sidelines