Thursday, July 03, 2014

Red, White and Blue All Through

Happy 4th of July!  Hip Hip Hooray for Independence Day!

As you read that, maybe you’re scoffing at the very idea of being patriotic. It’s so easy for us in the US to be critical of our country. We believe “America” equals our politics, or our history, or any number of issues, systems, or beliefs which bitterly divide those of us who live here.

That is, until we are at a sports event like the Olympics or World Cup Soccer.  Then we wave our flags until we’re literally red, white and blue in the face. Why is it so easy to cheer for the US in sports and not for other reasons? Maybe it’s a simple contest, pitting us clearly on one side, and the game ends in a few short hours? But it seems to unite us like little else does. The excitement is contagious and you can't help but get caught up in the crowd of people all rooting and hoping for the same thing.

But isn’t that what our country is at heart anyway? We are a nation of people that was built on a set of shared values that all people are equal and that we all have the same rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  I am totally hoping and rooting for that. Americans still fight daily for our freedom and our happiness, here and around the globe.  We believe so strongly in our values that we fight for the people of other nations to have the same rights too. We believe that everyone should have the same opportunities to be free to choose the lives they want to live and to be happy.

All the grumbling is just differences in perspective on how to get there, but at its core it’s ultimately still the same principle. We are a community of people who believe that things can always be better. We are always striving to improve our circumstances for ourselves and for our community – a better future for our kids, less struggle for our neighbors in need, rebuilding after disasters, or simply voicing our opinions on any and every issue that affects our ability to live happy, healthy lives.

There are a lot worse nations to live in, as we see in the news every day - just sayin'. Plus, we’re not quitters. We don’t just shrug our shoulders and accept lesser circumstances. At the bare minimum, we sit around and complain. Or we get out there and protest. And in growing numbers, we get out there and do the work that needs to be done. We don’t sit idly by.

I, myself, am grateful to live in a country where happiness and freedom are the ultimate goal. And where the people around me also believe that we can always better ourselves and our communities and our nation by smart choices, hard work, and a willingness to make it happen.

Reason to celebrate. And I love this holiday even more because I’m completely smitten by fireworks. I absolutely love them. So much so that when I die I want my ashes to be blown up in a firework display instead of tossed over the side of a boat or cooped up in a dusty urn somewhere. That part doesn’t have to wait til the 4th of July. But having a picnic or big outdoor bbq, wearing flip flops, waving sparklers – that’s just extra ice cream on the pie.

I’m not the cheerleading type, but one day a year, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my neighbors (some of whom sacrificed everything to move to America so they could live a better life and give their children a hopeful future) and feel my heart fill with pride for the ol’ red, white and blue. Cuz the anthem means a lot more than the start of a ball game, yo.