Why I Love America

The Fourth of July - that's what I've always called it in my head. It's not "Independence Day" to me - not really. On the fourth day of the seventh month of the year, I feel roots and heritage and ties and all the weight and guilt and joy of community. I also feel celebratory in a very personal way. After all, on the day of fireworks and parades and The Pops on the TV out on the deck in the back of the house where my dad sat to eat popcorn in the flickering blue of the screen in the dark after we'd lit our sparklers and written our names in trails of light in the air ... on that day, it was almost my birthday ... and then my grandmother's ... and then my dad's ... and later on, the next thing became my wedding anniversary. The fourth day of the month of July is big for me.

So I wonder - what is it about these national days that seems to encourage national griping? We feel silly in celebrations more of the mid-twentieth century than of our current day, perhaps. Nobody wants to feel as if they still live on the set of Mad Men. Not really. Today I've seen all the "but remember" wet blanketing and its Janus-faced cousin, "because of the military," posts and broadcasts and talking and defending, and now I want to say something.

I don't love America because America is the best place that God ever made. There have been a lot of good places in history and on our planet. But I do love America. I love our brash hopefulness and our resilience, most of all.

Remember the movie Apollo 13? Two scenes in that movie are made of such distilled American mentality that they say it all for me. Jim and Marilyn Lovell are in their backyard, looking up at the moon, after their party. He says to her, "From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it's not a miracle, we just decided to go."

Then there's the scene at Control in Houston, when they realize they've made square pegs and round holes between the parts of the craft.
 [Several technicians dump boxes containing the same equipment and tools that the astronauts have with them onto a table]
Technician: We've got to find a way to make this
[square CSM LiOH canister]
Technician: fit into the hole for this
[round LEM canister]
Technician: ... using nothing but that.

And they do it!!

That's why I love America. We dare. We dare to dream of possibilities that don't yet exist - and we stride out into our possibilities and fix it when we get there.

We're about to fix health care, I think. It might take us another hundred years. We don't really want to fix it the way the Old World fixed it - and really, we probably shouldn't. In America, we need to do things the way that works for Americans. But we can, and we will, and I think we've started to. Whenever we have remembered that we're all Americans, and that we can and should take care of each other, we have fixed all kinds of things. We opened our colleges to returning veterans and paid their way -- and got the most incredible generation of ideas, corporations, innovations, and public servants imaginable. We stopped pretending that those who don't own land, or women, or black people weren't people. We realized we all have a stake in this land we love. And we opened up the vote. We freed our slaves (finally!), and we have been hammering and rubbing away at the vestiges of inequality ever since.

We know, deep in our starred and striped hearts, that all men are created equal, and that the tyranny of the rich and powerful is not for us. It's time to fight for that idea once more. Here we are again. One nation. Indivisible. This is our heart, and this is our soul, and this is how we work it. Our nation is The People of The Idea, and that idea is a fair playing field and a sure and certain knowing that we are, all of us, rich and poor and black and white and brown and gay and straight and Christian and Muslim and Jew and Buddhist and pagan and heathen and Native and ordinary and extraordinary ... every single one of us, right to expect liberty and justice for all. And for that, I love America.

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