Proud to be …

Today is July 4th, a day we celebrate the beginning in 1776 of what is now the United States of America. We started with 13 states and now connect 50 states and a few territories. We are a complicated country, with a delicate balance of rules and freedom, three branches of federal government that provide checks and balances for sometimes competing interests, all serving as an umbrella for 50 separate states. Each state is unique but has similar bodies of government and law. Complicated but it usually works.

Some positive things that connect us are a belief that we can achieve anything, that we are fair and just, that each of us has individual rights and our government protects those rights, that any individual can be born into poverty yet die rich.

Some negative things that seem to set us apart from citizens of other countries are that we are loud, arrogant, self-centered and believe our way of life is the only way of life.

All of that is probably true.

Are we perfect? No. Is our way the only way? No. Do some of us hate some things, even many things about the state of our nation right now? Yes. Do most of us want to stay here anyway and try to work things out? Yes. Are most of us proud to be Americans even though we have differing opinions on exactly what that means? Yes.

In some countries everyone speaks one language, practices one religion, lives their whole life in whatever socioeconomic place they are born into and follow a narrow path in life determined by their government or family tradition. They all look like each other and act like each other. There is nothing wrong with any of that but it is not usually the American way.

The USA is either a melting pot or a salad bowl, depending on your point of view; both analogies, however, are valid. Our population contains a diverse collection of ingredients that combine to make us one mostly unified thing.

Diversity can sometimes be the root of conflict but it is also what makes us unique. We are a nation of immigrants. My own parents could trace their roots to Italy, Albania, Canada, France and Germany. People in my circle of close and mid-close friends connect back to those places as well as England, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Scandinavian countries, the Caribbean islands, Columbia, Greece, Venezuela, Iran and probably many other countries and regions. Ironically I know of only one friend who can trace roots to the original population of our land, in her case Cherokee.

Religions in that same circle? Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Jewish, Presbyterian, Baptist, Unitarian Universalist, atheist and probably many more. Languages? English dominates but my circle includes people who can have conversations in Spanish, Italian, Greek, Russian, French and Farsi. Lifestyles? Straight, gay, bi, married, divorced, single, living-withs, never-marrieds, married many times, monogamous, not monogamous, relationship-of-the-months, you name it.

The connection? We are all Americans. The 50 or so friends I referenced all have different birthdays but we all celebrate this one today. Happy birthday America!