At present, patriotism is an emotion which I cannot seem to muster up within myself. A lot of people, especially in the nationalistic decades early in the 20th century, found lack of patriotism to be “unnatural.” So if that’s the case, I guess I’m “unnatural.” I even wrote an essay last year arguing that Christians ought to reexamine their priorities, placing loyalty to God’s kingdom far above patriotism.
But some recent work that I’ve been doing on an article about sexual harassment law in America has led me to reflect on some of the truly good things about America. I’m no proponent of American exceptionalism, but in the course of human events it just so happens that I was born in America, so I know more about how these particular qualities have been exemplified in the United States. It’s not for me to say whether or not any other nation on earth has done a good job with these things. I dare say some have done better than America, some worse. But for what it’s worth, here are some reasons that America is really a great place to live.
I said once that America was founded on the idea that all white land-holding males are created equal. And I think that’s irrefutable. But although the founding fathers made some classist, racist, sexist assumptions, they created a system in which the ideals of liberty, justice, and civil rights could be expanded, explored, and exploited to their fullest potential. The battle for true equality has been quite ugly at times, but within the American system there is space for that battle to be waged. Since the late 1700’s, the narrow concept of civil rights and liberties originally subscribed to by our founding fathers has been expanded beyond all recognition. There is still so much work left to be done, but America is a place where such work can be done, indeed where we expect that such work will be done.
The first amendment to the Constitution has not always been consistently upheld. But in general, America is a place designed to allow for and even celebrate diversity. Diversity of opinion, diversity of practice, indeed for the most part any diversity which isn’t an actual national security threat, is part of the American tradition. I’m not saying that we’ve perfectly stuck to this ideal, not by a long shot. But I think we’re getting better at it. Homogeneity is boring, and let’s face it, in a country the size of the United States, it’s basically impossible. So I’m glad Americans enjoy embracing diversity, even if it’s more often than not a watered-down pop cultural version.
And finally, I am grateful that America is in general, safe. As a rule, the police and the military do a good job of keeping the average citizen’s life relatively safe, while not intruding on personal freedoms. I’m not saying our system is perfect, but at the same time, I don’t really fear that I’ll come to harm as I go about my everyday life. And that is something I shouldn't take for granted.
So, though I’m not terribly patriotic, I am grateful for these benefits of the American system. We’re not perfect, and there are plenty of things we could do better. But this country is a pretty great place to live, so I’m thankful that I was born here.
(As a side note, if we think America is so great, why are we so stingy about letting other people in to share this place with us? *ahem* immigration reform *cough, cough*…but that’s another post for another day.)