Thursday, July 4, 2013

America the Beautiful

Independence Day is a time when we are supposed to reflect on what it means to be American. For most people, that means getting lost in the enjoyment of swimming pools, cold beer, and the taste of our finest cusine cooking on the grill. It's a time to celebrate all that we have, all that we've accomplished, and all that we might accomplish in the future. It means that for me as well, but it also means more. Because reflection is not supposed to be a forgetting of all our troubles. In the spirit of the holiday, it's also a time for each American to examine the state of our nation and see if we're living up to the promise of our founding ideals.

America is place of many contradictions. It is the land of free, but has more incarcerated people than any other democracy. It's a nation that celebrates its outlaws, while demanding justice. We pride ourselves on individuality, yet tend to throw blame on anyone but ourselves. These contradictions are perhaps clearest in our political landscape, where we've never been more divided since the Civil War, a division that seems to be getting worse by the day, and threatens the lasting continuation of our government's functionality.

So on America's 237th Birthday, where do we stand? On one hand, the growing acceptance of same sex couples and their rights moves us one step closer to fulfilling the promise of "All men are created equal" and that is something worth celebrating with massive amounts of fireworks, because it means we are still progressing. And while there are large groups of people who oppose this measure, voicing their objection shows that the right to personal opinion still exits. 

On the other hand, we have states like North Carolina and Texas and Ohio trying to enforce new voter restrictions to suppress opposition. This is a huge step backward, trying to ensure that our government does not represent all the people, just those with influence and like-minded ideas. And we also have the huge mess created by the Patriot Act, the most ill-named bill in the history of this country, serving to undermine our most basic freedoms, and which, left unchecked, has the very real potential to lead to a police state. We have corporations dictating policy with their abundance of influence that the average citizen can't possible compete with. We have politicians bent on serving the will of the few over the needs of the many. And we have a population that for the most part doesn't seem to care as long as they are placated with materialism and entertainment. 

America is far from perfect, despite the popular myth we like to tell ourselves. It is a deeply flawed nation, but at least it's one that never seems to content to live with its flaws. I love this country. There is no other place I'd rather live. Because despite all the problems, it is still a place where I can write this and share it openly without fear of retaliation. I love this country because even with all the tension, it truly is an example to the rest of the world for how so many different kinds of people, with completely different traditions, beliefs, and customs can live side-by-side in relative harmony. We are a nation that comes together, shown time and time again in the face of tragedy and adversity. I just hope we can come together again in the near future to make sure our nation truly reflects the best of interests of all her people.

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