I am a lot of things: Catholic, female, a teacher, an historian, from Cincinnati, etc. All of those things influence who I am and how I see and act in the world, but none of them impacts me more than the fact that I am an American.
America is still the land of freedom and equality, of opportunity and possibility. Our nation was built of the hopes and dreams of millions of immigrants. It still holds that promise for so many today, which is why we have the ongoing immigration debate currently.
Our freedom and prosperity has given way to some fantastic inventions that can help humanity just as well as they can destroy it. We have so much disposable income and disposable time that entire segments of our economy have been built around our consumption of movies, music, clothing, sporting events, etc. We our a country where the "mom and pop" shop still exists next door to chains. We gave birth to the big box store, to the supermarket, the shopping mall and to internet shopping. We also have a very strong sense of local traditions and shopping local.
We have the oldest constitution in the world. The US Constitution was written by men who could never have seen what the future would hold, but they knew that they had to create a government that could develop along with technology, commerce, population, war, peace, and domestic strife. They gave the states power to run themselves, to educate their citizens, to build their own roads, collect their own taxes, etc. It's amazing that after all the changes this nation has seen, our Constitution still stands as a testament to all those who risked their lives to be free to live, write, speak and worship as they wished.
We have spread a love of denim, various types of music, fast food, and movies worldwide. We have also entangled ourselves in various conflicts and international debates. We have made unilateral decisions that affected people in other countries. We have suffered our own civil war and reunited our nation. We've suffered a terrible terrorist attack that has changed the way people travel all over the world. We've relocated two entire populations of people and denied them the benefits of their citizenship because we were scared of them. We've killed nearly all the buffalo in our nation, and today devote lots of time and money to saving endangered species all around the world, including our very own symbol of freedom: the Bald Eagle.
We are a people given to wanton waste and have one of the greatest national park systems in the world. We have the richest poor people in the world, but their lives are not enriched like those in many other nations. We have people like Bill Gates who has a hard time giving away the interest that he makes on his wealth. We can go the grocery and buy the same fresh produce year-round, but we talk about carbon footprints.
We are a country of paradoxes, but we have to own them all. Because in that too, we are American. All of these things are what we are, and to deny those things is to deny our American-ness and that is a real shame. We are a country that has created it's own culture over the past 200 years, and that is really something! This country is vast and great and full of so many different people, religions, beliefs, thoughts, hopes, and dreams. So this weekend we will celebrate it by setting off fireworks, drinking a few beers and eating lots of hot dogs, burgers and dips, because what's more American than that?