As most people know, yesterday, the 4th of July, is considered America’s birthday, as it is the day that the leaders of the American colonies wrote to King George III of England and told him were cutting ties in the document known as the Declaration of Independence.
These days this holiday is largely celebrated by parades, cooking meat outdoors, and fireworks.
This is exactly what I did to celebrate (minus the parade, because it is way too hot here in Utah for me to willingly sit outside for a few hours when the sun is fully out).
But the thing is, I almost didn’t write this blog post. Let’s be real, compared to the way many points of view in America stand, I have a pretty ex-patriot attitude. This started when I lived in Germany, and has grown over the past seven years, regardless of where I’ve been living. And now I’d like to address that attitude.
Let me first list some things that make me proud to be an American:
- The Preamble of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence: These wonderful documents beautifully outline the principles upon which our country was founded, namely freedom, hard work, and mutual respect for all citizens.
- The Wars Fought by Our Country Through WWII: Particularly the Revolutionary War and the Civil War; these wars were all fought for the principles mentioned above. They were fought to protect us as a country and our friends against heinous injustices inflicted upon society. They were fought in defense of homes, families, lifestyles, and ideals. (Wars fought after WWII are conflicted in my study. Perhaps they are not far enough in the past to have been romanticized yet; but I think this is mostly due to methods of warfare and reasons for fighting.)
- Transcendentalism: The philosophical school to which I ascribe; a movement in the early 19th century among Americans particularly in New England, most notably Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Their primary beliefs were overcoming carnal appetites and forging a separate path from society if society no longer upholds the truths in which you personally believe.
- The UN and Other Humanitarian Efforts: Obviously the UN is not just the US, but we contribute quite a bit there, and we do consciously make an effort to use our wealth and status to help out other countries, whether that is through countless private organizations within the US, or the US government itself. For the most part, we love helping other people out.
- Superheroes: I’ve had several of my European friends remark to me about America’s obsession with heroes – a good guy (or girl!) with upstanding morals who risks everything to jump in and save someone. I can see how, in some areas of the world, such fantasies are pointless or potentially harmful, however I love the passion and compassion it inspires among so many of us, and I’m proud to say that so many of them originated right here in America.
- The American Soldiers: Speaking of superheroes. These kids, who go off to fight simply because they love their homes, their country, and the freedom upon which we were built. There is not enough praise in this world for them.
- Our Patriotic Songs and Anthem: I particularly love the fourth verses of both “America the Beautiful” and “The Star Spangled Banner.”
America the Beautiful:
O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
The Star Spangled Banner:
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
I read these lyrics and see the truth of the ideas which formed our country, but I don’t see these ideas practiced throughout our country any more. On the sides of liberals and conservatives alike, there is a poison which has settled into many hearts and it is this: entitlement.
We hear a lot that freedom isn’t free, and we often thank our service men and women for paying that price for us. But we must ALL pay that price. Our freedom is daily in jeopardy, whether that be by the bully on the school playground, or by the employer who skims around HR rules or employment laws, or by a radical movement – without or within our country. Many of us believe that if we were born in America, freedom is given to us and no one can take it away, but the truth is, they can. It could be anyone: even our friends, family, and particularly the leaders that represent us; any person could infringe on our freedom. Sometimes it is necessary to give up some of our freedom for a greater cause (such as peace): that is what we call compromise or sacrifice. But the worst thing that any American – any person – could do, is to misunderstand their freedom in such a way that they give it up without a thought.
Our Founding Fathers understood this. I hope that more Americans do than I suspect. If not, I hope they begin to do so now.