Today we celebrate our nation’s 244th birthday. Though some show disdain toward the land of their birth, I will observe Independence Day with pride. Its heritage is my heritage.
As a nine-year-old, I witnessed in the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976. Numerous events were staged to commemorate this momentous historical milestone. For instance, group a people reenacted the Oregon Trail trek with real horse-drawn wagons and folks dressed up in period costumes.
That year as a Girl Scouts Brownie, I got the privilege to earn bicentennial badges even though Brownies didn’t earn badges. Since a bicentennial celebration only happens once, the Girl Scouts of America made an exception. I still have mine and the corn-husk doll and doll quilt I made for them.
My parents often took my sister and me to a large park for Independence Day festivities. In 1976, I made a Betsy Ross doll, complete with a patriotic red-white-and-blue outfit. In the evening, we set off fireworks in our backyard.
Patriotism in School
My elementary school taught songs such as “This Land Is Your Land” and “Yankee Doodle.” At the spring assembly one year, my grade did a performance of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We saluted the flag each day. I don’t recall doing that in junior high or high school except at games.
In the 1980s, we did study the Constitution and US history in eighth grade and took US and World History as juniors and American Government as seniors.
Family Legacy of Patriotism
As a homeschooling mom, we didn’t regularly salute the flag. Still, I introduced my kids to the pledge of allegiance, patriotic songs, and brief historical texts and speeches with Wee Sing America.
For many years, we celebrated Independence Day at our church’s summer family camp. On July 4, the children decorated their bikes and put on a short parade. In the evening, we’d watch a professional fireworks show.
Since moving to Whidbey Island, we’ve attended Celebrate America festival in Freeland on July 3 and watched the pyrotechnics over the harbor. The next day, we join a large crowd at my sister-in-law’s home for BBQ, outdoor games, and backyard fireworks.
Educated to Scorn America
Recently, it has become fashionable to hate America. I believe those who hate America confuse civil liberty with “free” handouts or have been taught a twisted view of history. They say socialism is better than capitalism. Haven’t they heard that nations that adopted the Marxist worldview crashed and burned? Teachers who claim that America’s social, economic, and political systems are second rate to socialism should be exposed as frauds. Yet, students are fed a regular diet of American contempt.
In college, I learned to feel embarrassed about my country. Americans are noisy, rude, and dominate the world with their military and culture. We should be ashamed of our wealth because most of the world’s population is very poor. My profs failed to point out that our generosity and wealth-making skills have actually lifted millions out of poverty worldwide.
Why Celebrate America?
First, people ought to be proud of their nation simply because it is their nation. It’s like having school spirit or rooting for your home sports team. Win or lose, you stick by them. I suppose citizens of oppressive regimes have a right to dislike their nation. Regardless of protesters’ Critical Theory opinions, America is not oppressive. Everyone is equal before the law.
Our rule of law is one of many reasons why the United States of America is an exceptional nation.
The United States Constitution has remained the oldest constitution in continuous use in the world. Its longevity demonstrates that it works. Granted, the original contained some flaws, but these have been corrected by amendments. Overall, this document is an amazing piece of work that the Founding Fathers developed after long hours of prayer, thought, and debate.
They created a government that would be strong enough to hold the individual states together but weak enough that it wouldn’t trample personal liberties.
Unlike other nations that formed organically around historic people groups, the United States joins together several ethnic groups with the belief that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (The Declaration of Independence).
As a people group, Americans, regardless of heritage, tend to be more adventurous. All who came to this country (with the exceptions of slaves and transported prisoners) had to have the courage to leave home, travel across dangerous oceans, and start a new life in a foreign land.
We, the American people, are more optimistic, confident, ambitious than other nations. We are problem solvers. In some areas of the world, ancient feuds prevent people from working together. As the most multi-ethnic and multi-racial society in the world, we use our diversity to our advantage. Various viewpoints help us discover new ways of doing things.
Our Social Structure
In most nations, a person’s family heritage dictates his destiny. That can be good in many cases. However, those from a lower class or a family with a bad reputation can’t move up in such a society. Everyone sees him as a product of his heritage and not as an individual.
On the other hand, in the US, immigrants can shed that negative heritage and be their own persons. Their backgrounds don’t overshadow them, and social mobility is possible.
Our Economic Opportunity
Throughout our history, many immigrated here for economic opportunity. America’s financial success is due to our Puritan work ethic, Yankee ingenuity, and business environment of caring, trust, and legal protection.
Generally, Americans care for their customers and build a relationship of trust. Self-serve farmer stands can exist because we trust people not to rob them. This trust allows the market to grow. In most developing nations, however, people would steal from an unattended vegetable stand.
Despite our high trustworthiness, we have our share of bad apples. Law enforcement allows individuals to operate in the marketplace without the constant fear of theft, vandals, or extortion. Without this fear, people are more likely to invest in the economy.
In contrast, injustice prevents the people of India from getting ahead.
For thousands of years, the absence of effective law, order, and justice had exacted a debilitating toll from our people. They have been coerced into thinking that it was unwise to be wealthy. Wealth, at least its display, was an invitation to trouble. If a family did manage to save some money for a ‘rainy day,’ they neither invested it in comfortable living nor in generating more money. Instead, they dug their cash and jewelry into their floors and walls, burying their wealth.
This timidity and fearfulness is typical of insecure cultures that teach people to hoard their meager capital. Families dare not ‘squander’ it on cultural creativity and personal advancement.i—Vishal Mangalwadi
Yes, we still have poor people. However, except for the homeless, the poorest Americans are rich compared to most of the world’s population. For example, White Swan, Washington, on the Yakama Indian Reservation, is one of the top ten most impoverished communities in the nation. Despite this, its citizens have electricity, indoor plumbing, air conditioners, and TVs, which most of the world’s population can only dream of.
When US territory grew, instead of setting up colonies from which to drain resources as the European powers did, the US made it possible for new territories to join the Union as equal states with the original states.
In the twentieth century, the US stopped acquiring land despite all the wars it fought in. After WWI and WWII, the US took only enough land to bury her dead. Instead of annexing territories, we rebuilt our allies and our enemies. Today, America has no interest in empire. Around the world, our military fights for freedom and aids nations suffering from natural disasters—and goes home.
We provide more charitable dollars and humanitarian aid than any other nation in the world. When disasters strike, the world looks to us for help.
Our many philanthropists build parks, museums, concert halls, universities, and establish various organizations and foundations that benefit the general population. Few other nations have people who share the wealth with their fellow citizens as we do.
Our Faith Expression
Much of America’s exceptionalism, especially its compassion, stems from our faith. As other nations grow more affluent, they cast off religion. Americans, in contrast, have maintained their faith to a higher degree.
During the colonial period, many who ventured across the Atlantic fled from religious persecution. My mother’s Quaker ancestors and my father’s German Mennonite ancestors came to America for that very reason.
In America, people of various faiths can live side by side without fear of being chased from their homes or murdered simply for adhering to a different religion. Whereas, in several Asian and African countries, religious minorities receive violent attacks for their beliefs.
America has its faults. Nevertheless, I believe the good weighs out the bad.
Those who march through the streets complaining about oppression while using their smartphones to document their activities don’t realize how good they have it. They need to listen to recent immigrants’ stories and understand why, out of all the nations of the world, they chose the United States to be their new home.
I’m proud to be an American, and I encourage all her citizens to recognize what a treasure this nation is and to unite in the fight to keep her free.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”—President Ronald Reagan
iMangalwadi, Vishal, The Book that Made Your World, p. x