I don’t post much in the way of political discourse.
Oh, believe me, I have political opinions. Lots of ’em! And nothing kicks up the dust between people quite like throwing those opinions around. If you want to spur debate and get the fires of passion moving through a crowd, just toss out a couple of labels (“liberal” and “conservative” will do, for starters), introduce a subject that affects everyone (universal health care, perhaps), and before you know it, people will be toe to toe and nose to nose over that line, shouting at the top of their lungs while holding their hands over their ears to protect themselves from dissenting voices.
Sounds fun, right?
Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the word, but as unpleasant and difficult as it sometimes gets, our ability to discuss opposing ideas in the public square is vital to the political health of our country. We have a right to be strident, and loud, and opinionated, and passionate, and I think most of us would agree that the freedom to speak our minds is just one of the many things that makes it great to live in America.
I am so thankful for my country. Even in a time when the United States is garnering censure and resentment from some parts of the world, there is something noble and praiseworthy about the ideals upon which our country was founded, principles which most of us still hold close to our hearts as we climb and stumble and reach into an uncertain future.
Being an American is a great blessing.
Right now, in many places around the world, Christians are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. Here, I can shout my beliefs from the rooftop; I can speak the name of Jesus Christ freely on the streets or in the classroom or on the front steps of city hall without fearing for my family’s safety or having my possessions confiscated. It might not be the popular view, and I may be ridiculed or verbally excoriated, but not even the objectors would deny my right to speak. What a gift to be an American!
In some countries, women aren’t allowed to go to school or drive or hold a job. In others, rigorously defended caste systems lock people into classes, their place in life already decided for them from the moment of birth. In America, I can start at the bottom and work my way up. With great effort, wise choices, and a good education, it is possible for a busboy to one day become the CEO of his own company. No citizen is prevented by law or government from trying to better themselves. What a gift to be an American!
There’s an oft repeated stereotype familiar to anyone who has traveled abroad in the world: the ugly American. Americans, it is said, are loud, proud, uncultured and unpredictable. It’s not meant to be a flattering picture, and I wince to imagine the rude and ill-considered behavior that might have fed into it over the years. But I have to admit, there’s something that sort of appeals to me in that description as well, some jewels glittering there amidst the dirt. Yes, we may be loud, but it’s just our habit; we’re free to say what we think and believe in front of everyone. Maybe we are proud, but we have a strong national identity and a history of overcoming mistakes and obstacles together. Perhaps we are uncultured, but we are a mix of many peoples, and each one adds its own flavor to our ever changing personality.
And we are a little unpredictable, but I happen to think that’s part of our charm.
If every country has a word, America’s is “struggle”. We are still a young nation, a boiling pot of ideas and free enterprise and individuality endeavoring to shape itself on the ideals of human freedom and equality. The founding fathers called America “The Great Experiment”, and I think that’s a good description. At two hundred thirty one years old, we’re still figuring a few things out.
However the experiment turns out, I am thankful to be a part of it.