Fireworks drench the clear sky in ribbons of color. The children next to you happily giggle as they stare in awe at their own sparklers. The smell of barbeque is inescapable, in the best way, and if you listen carefully there’s always a soft hum of music wheezing from someone’s iPod dock. Patriotism is blanketing the American masses as they huddle on blankets watching the night sky erupt in red, white, and blue, or hover near their dad’s grill, eagerly awaiting their hot dog. The Fourth of July gives even the most brash and skeptical New Yorkers some common ground with the picket fence Southern families: pride for their country.
However, all days come to an end, so the picnics are packed up and people file home to their lofts in the city or their two story white shutter house nestled between two other identical two story white shutter houses on a cul-de-sac. The fifth of July rolls around. That swelling pride they felt when they reflected on their country only the night before, dims. It’s back to grumbling about how crooked our politicians are, how obese our children are, and how lazy our people are.
Maybe our politicians do leave something to be desired, maybe our children are quicker to pick Happy Meals over broccoli, and yes, maybe Americans do have a tendency to lunge for their remotes and take out menus. But with anything, the good comes with the bad. It’s yin and yang; it’s the general balance of life. Nothing is all good and nothing is all bad, so why do we as Americans distort ourselves into being the selfish, fat bullies?
It’s human nature to be hard on ourselves and, as a country, we’re particularly bad about this. For being stereotyped as a vain culture, we clearly lack vanity when it comes to defending our own stars and stripes. With the rest of the world stereotyping as us lazy, selfish, fat Americans, we often buckle under popular opinion and agree. The U.S. is often scoffed at, shunned, or it becomes a punchline. Why is it that everyone, even those of us living here, has this mentality?
There are blogs called ‘Why Americans Suck’ written by Americans; there are born and raised American comedians that thrive on America’s failures; there are people who are offended that their American children have to pledge allegiance to the flag. Let’s reflect momentarily and play devil’s advocate: maybe you don’t agree with war, or maybe you hate the idea that we seem to stick our nose where it doesn’t belong.
Despite all that, people have died for that flag, and more importantly, for the ability of your child to have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to recite “I pledge allegiance to the flag under the United States of America…” Or, look at how making fun of America gives comedians the opportunity to poke fun at the country without any consequences. Note that many other countries don’t reap those kinds of benefits if they decided to mock their own government.
While the United States has made its fair share of blunders over the course of our 200 and some years, we’ve also accomplished great things. We helped stop a deranged, sadist dictator who massacred masses of people. You may be familiar with him: Adolf Hitler. Or how we do our best to provide welfare, food stamps, and housing to the Americans that hit hard times and plunge below the poverty line. Perhaps during our day-to-day life it’s hard to remember that fateful day in 2001 when we stood as a country. The day we held each other up when our fellow citizens fell from burning buildings as the whole country watched in horror.
Sure, we have our faults, but we also have aspects about our country that makes us worthy of immigrants fleeing their own country to get a chance to live in ours. We have more than just endless gluten free options and addictive television shows. We have freedom. Freedom to travel wherever you want, whenever you want. Freedom to say whatever you want, whenever you want. Freedom to hate America or to love it. Freedom to be obese or freedom to publicly complain about the First Lady’s movement to take away your child’s favorite school lunch on Facebook.
I will probably get judged harder for saying that, yes, I am proud to be an American, than if this were an article on the evils of the American citizen. Do I agree with every move our country makes politically? No, I’m not nearly educated enough to discuss how we should pursue world peace. I doubt anyone really is. Do I believe that Americans are constantly navigating through life with the original idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I think that token of advice has been forgotten over the course of years. Most of our choices are more or less guided by paying the bills and just making it. Do I think that America is perfect? Of course not. But, find me Utopia and I’ll move there by 2016.
America has made mistakes and has made power moves. However, like everything in life, there is good and there is bad. We have the bad: Donald Trump; we have the good: Disney World. You just have to decide which one to spend your time dwelling on. Personally, I proudly put my right hand over my heart when I hear the first notes of the National Anthem, and I pay for the coffee of any person clad in uniform behind me. I’m proud to be an American, but don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my plea for you to suddenly become patriotic. It’s America, so you have the freedom to agree or disagree with me.
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