Now, I know that this country isn’t perfect, especially these days. 18 per cent unemployment and a glistening mountian of National Debt is enough to tempt even the most ardent patriot to a bit of frustrated rage. While I aknowledge that this village of 311 million is far from the perfect national community, I think that even the most frustrated and discouraged among us would agree that, for all its flaws, it’s still one of the best places in the world to call home, “double-dip” recession or no “double dip” recession.
In that spirit, I would like to submit for your approval a short list of reasons why, even in her hard times, the good old USA is still awsome:
1. Safe Haven:
Although American immigration has had its ups and downs, from the very begining of our history this country has opened its arms to people seeking a second chance. Many of us call this beautiful place home today because The American Dream was extended to a starving Irish farmer or carptenter looking for hope for his or her family. In the 1840’s, the safe haven of United States immigration literally saved around 1 million people from starving to death.
From the eighteenth century on, America has been a safe zone for the world’s Jews, in particular, especially at the moments when such salvation was most sorely needed. The poem the now adorns the base of the Statue of Liberty was written by an American-borrn Jew, moved by stories of the systematic persecution that was driving Russian Jews to our shores in the early 20th century. Her words would serve as a comfort and a welcome to numerous groups from around the world who, for whatever reason, came to America in search of a new hope.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearing to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me./I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(from “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus , 1903).
2. Power to the People (Yes, Even in 2011).
There is no doubt that America is facing one of its most challenging periods financially…but we are still wealthier than 26 per cent of the population of the planet. Our system is in the gutter, but we still have more hope than much of the world. In fact, one of the best things about Americans really comes to light when we are facing our greatest challenges: our optomism. Yes, we might complain about everything that’s wrong with the country, but we complain knowing that we have at least some power to change things–through a vote, a petition, a letter to our leaders. More than anywhere else in the world, the United States is a place where the averge citizen has at least some real power; the kind of power that the citizens of many another country would literally kill for.
And while we’re on the subject, I might as well point out something else legitimately praise-worthy about 21st century America: the 2000 were the first century of American history in which no segmant of our population was denied the oppertunity to be a part of the National Conversation. On New Year’s Day, 1800, the only segment of the United States population that was permitted to vote was land-owing (read: wealthy) white males. Before the century was out, the net had been widened to include black men, and less than 100 years after that step, women won a place in the ranks of the American Voter. In addition to the barriers that we have torn down, there were even a few that were never erected in the first place: I have never heard of a law that barred an American from voting based on thier religion or sexual orientation, at any point in our history.
Some argue that we have some way to go yet before we can boast a country completely free of social injustice, but even the naysayers would have to admit that, when it comes to upholding human rights, the United States has come a very long way in a very short time.
3. Give Till It Hurts
No matter what you think of us or our policies, the reality of American generousity and compassion is hard to ignore. The United States may be the only nation on the planet in which an illegal alien would recieve life-saving medical treatment, at the expense of the State, before being sent home. Over and over again, throughout history, Americans have met tragedy with compassion, regardless of the borders in which the suffering resided. From Haiti, to Africa, to New York City after 9/11, Americans have opened thier hearts–and thier wallets–to the hurting and the needy when it really counted.
Complain about the Government’s policies or the price of gas or the Health Care system if you want to, but damn it, you have to admit that, whatever else might be small or petty about it, this country has one huge heart. And I think that’s something to be very proud of.
I could go on for pages, but I have a question for you, instead. To my American friends: what do you love about this country? What makes you proud or greatful to belong to it? Let’s just celebrate a little.