Independence? Really?

Today is the Fourth of July, Independence Day. It is a day that Americans left and right think about this country and what it means to live here. For the almost two-thirds of the country that feels we’re on the wrong track, it’s not a wholly positive consideration. Me, I’m concerned. My country is engaged in aggressive military behavior around the world, especially in Afghanistan, which is nearly tied with Russia for its record of destroying invading armies. My country seems incapable of accomplishing any political progress even in the most nominally ideal political conditions. My country is blind to its addiction to oil, even while the news is filled with images of oil-soaked wildlife. My country is in a horrific state educationally, economically, and environmentally. My country cares more about celebrity conflict than about the wellbeing of our neighborhoods. My country is so self-centered and thoughtlessly arrogant on days that aren’t devoted to its remembrance that it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about a holiday that promotes more of that feeling.

And yet, my country is a place where the fundamental basis of the law is fair and populist. My country is overall a place of great privilege, and that would be wrong to dismiss or overlook. My country is full of people who are friendly, well-meaning, and hospitable. My country is a place where people want a better world, even if they’re not sure what that means or what they need to do to get there. My country is a place where people can come together for positive purposes, if only briefly.

But the real reason I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else is that all the people and places that I know and love are here. On my trip, I’ve realized that while the majority of my friends and acquaintances are in the northeast, there are wonderful friends scattered all over the country. And I will be thinking of you tonight, friends, when the fireworks are going off. You are the reason I am happy to be an American.

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