If I had been alive in the '60s--and just a little more crotchety--I can clearly imagine my Chevy Chevelle or Dodge Dart sporting that classic bumper sticker: "America: Love It or Leave It!" Or allow me to make a slight emendation to make it just right: "America: Love It, Leave It, or Do Something to Improve It Rather Than Just Complain!" A tad long for a bumper sticker, I suppose. But on this Fourth of July, I am reminded of how much I love this country and how proud I am to call it home. You don't have to look far these days to find a native-born American citizen who doesn't realize that their birth certificate is a winning lottery ticket. As someone who has devoted much of my life to the study of a foreign language and culture, I have encountered many such people. People who seem to wish they had been born with a different birth certificate, a different language, a different latitude. On my study abroad trip to Germany during college, several of my fellow Americans dreaded being recognized as "Amis." They pinned Canadian flags to their backpacks so as not to be detected. Turncoats! To me, it seemed like they might as well have burned the American flag while they were at it. Maybe it's the way I was raised, but not only do I believe that the way we honor our country is a reflection of our own honor, but that this is still a wonderful nation worthy of our pride. I am well aware of its faults, but in the last balance, I am proud to be 1/300 millionth of the USA. Here are my top five reasons why:
Freedom: The obvious top contender. This country may not afford us as many freedoms as some (particularly Libertarians such as my husband) would like, but it's still pretty hard to beat life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am free to believe what I wish, say what I wish, move about where I wish. I thank God for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the many other laws that protect my freedoms as an American.
Majesty: Just the landscape of this expanse of Earth is enough to provoke undying awe. Government, culture, and individuals aside, this space between Atlantic and Pacific is an incredible imprint of God's glory. The Grand Canyon, the Redwoods, the Great Lakes, and all our State and National Parks prove that this nation is a mosaic of grandeur.
History: Whatever our opinions about America's present, its past tells a story of honorable ideals. (I'm not forgetting the sad realities of slavery, the Trail of Tears, or internment camps--just focusing on the good, which I believe has prevailed overall.) Remember the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe? Remember the Berlin Airlift, which brought much-needed supplies to Germans in need? Remember the many millions who have been given new opportunities here? Oh, and remember the founding of this nation, based on principles of democracy and human rights?
Innovation: So many exciting things are going on every second of every day in this country. The research being done at America's universities paves the way for medical advances and solutions to social problems. New technologies are constantly being invented here that affect the well-being of the entire world. And that's only referring to the present. Just think of all the amazing innovations Americans have produced in the course of our history. You could never list them all.
Civilization: If you've ever spent time in a Third World country, you know the relief of returning home to the First World. The mere ability to drive across the U.S. on reliable roads is a gift we take for granted. Or how about not having to bribe the guy behind the counter at the DMV to get your driver's license? We might get frustrated at bureaucracy we sometimes have to deal with as Americans, but in my opinion, it's a lot better than widespread corruption and disorganization.
I could go on and on. But suffice it to say (if I can type this without succumbing to sloppy sobs like I do every time I hear it on the radio) that "I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free / and I won't forget the men who died and gave that right to me / and I'll gladly stand up / next to you / and defend her still today / 'cause there ain't no doubt I love this land / God bless the USA."