Suddenly it is cool to be a patriot. In the wake of September 11th patriotism is now high fashion chic. While it took a great injustice against our country to bring the Stars and Stripes to the forefront of the American consciousness, I say, "It's about time". We live in the greatest country in the world, and I for one am glad.
I will admit that I am not a flag-waving patriot. Honestly, I know we live in a flawed country. We still have poverty, racism, corruption and scandal. Despite all of that, we still live in the greatest country on Earth.
The poorest of our poor still live better than half of the world. The worst housing projects are better than the shanty towns outside of Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Istanbul and countless other of the World's cities.
Every city in our country has a fire department, water, police, garbage and a local government that generally tries to improve the community. You can't say that about most cities. While we worry that the police officer on the corner may stop us for speeding, in most countries they worry that the police will take them away.
We live in the most impressive country in the world. Say what you want about our youth, but we produce athletes, musicians, artists and scientist that rival any on the planet. Our educational system may not be the best, but every child can go to school. This is the country that produced Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Jonas Salk, Orson Wells, Jesse Owens, Douglas McArthur, Ansel Adams and Frank Sinatra. We invented the computer, the car, Jazz, the airplane, barbeque and rock and roll.
An American was the first to walk on the moon. An American first spoke on the phone. An American first played the electric guitar.
In America you can go to a church, a synagogue, a mosque or no place of worship at all. In America you can be a Republican, a Democrat or an anarchist. You can voice your opinion or you can keep quiet.
When you open that next newspaper, read the next editorial or just argue a point over cocktails, remember people are put to death for less in other countries.
Jay Leno makes fun of George Bush and is a millionaire. In Iraq the same jokes would be a death sentence.
We are the world's peacekeeper. Like it or not. We are the world's consumers. We keep the world moving.
People accuse us of buying too much, eating too much, using too much. It's because we can. We are free. It's because of our freedoms that we can work hard, and play hard.
The rest of the world sees us as wasteful. We go to movies, buy big cars, buy big houses. We do this because we are free. No one in America is limited. Sure it is harder for some than others, but everyone has a chance. The poorest of the poor can some day become a success. Sure they have to overcome more. Sure they have to work harder. But they can succeed. Try doing that in Bangladesh.
We are constantly told that the entire world hates us. If that is true, then why do they keep trying to come? They do not hate us, they envy us.
Immigrants risk their lives to cross the Sonoran desert to come here and work the worst jobs. If they don't make it the first time, they keep trying. They risk the heat, the animals and border bandits for a chance to do the most menial labors.
Others risk never seeing their families again. Others risk never returning to their homelands. They do this to be Americans.
Recently my mother was riding in a cab in New York City. Her cab driver in broken English told her, "I love America. It is a wonderful place. I am proud to be an American." He told her that he brought his wife and child here several years ago and his only regret was that the rest of his family could not come. He drives a cab 60 hours a week, for $5.00 a day and is glad he can. That should tell you something.
My grandmother came to America as a small child. Her father left her and the rest of the family in Poland and brought her over a year later. Other relatives left everything behind in Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Russia. Too many others never made it here.
My great uncle lived the American Dream. He was a shoeshine boy who promised to buy the building he worked in front of. Years later he did. I never met the man, but I can still walk in the plaza that bears his name. Only in America.
Someone sued the government over the Pledge of Allegiance. While I personally think that person is an idiot, I think it is a great thing that even that idiot can take our government to court. Think they can do that in Saudi Arabia? Think you could go up against the government in Iran?
We have the time to come to websites like this. We have time to listen to talk radio. We have the freedom to have different opinions.
This Fourth of July will take on all new meanings. Flags will have been out for months now. We are on alert for more attacks. We have a number of men and women serving our country overseas. It will have a little more emotion.
I'll still watch baseball. I'll still fire up the grill. I'll still watch a movie or drink a beer or read the newspaper. I'll still do these things because I can. Because WE can. I'll also take the time to say my thanks to be an American. I'll remember my grandfather William East, my Uncle Joe, my Uncle Harry and step-grandfather William Hill who all fought in World War II. I'll privately thank the nameless faceless soldiers who fought for my freedoms.
Happy Birthday America!