Independence Day highlights potential

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The 4th of July is a mixed holiday. And that’s not a reference to its celebration of our mixing pot nation. No, I’m writing in regards to the mixed emotions shared as we embrace our strengths but also take an honest look at our history.

These days, it seems trendy — even “cool” — to bash the United States. On the other hand, the people wearing our flag everywhere (which is a very American phenomenon, putting one’s flag on nearly every piece of merchandise) and singing patriotic songs while watching the fireworks and talking about “the good old days” would be far off too.

Balanced perspective is rarely entertaining, but is always worthwhile.

It’s true that our nation has a sordid history which includes a still-existing struggle with issues like race relations, equal rights, and healthcare (to name a few), but there ought to be a day when we celebrate everything that’s going right.

Idealism without evaluation is naivety. Evaluation with ideals is stoicism. Somewhere between these too lies a realistic exploration of potential.

Right now, the leaders in our country are facing decisions that will move us forward or set us back. Some of our accomplishments, like the progress we’ve made in reducing CO2 emissions, are under threat. However, we fortunately live in a nation with various processes allowing us to impact and amend such decisions.

On a lighter note, here are a few other reasons to be happy on July 4th:

  • We are the most generous nation, the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard wrote, citing the new Almanac of American Philanthropy, also supported by international sources using methods like the World Giving Index.
  • We produce massive quantities of cheese, according to Will Oremus of Slate in this article.
  • We produce massive quantities of cheese — online. For evidence, please watch this video of John Legend and Stephen Colbert singing what could be the cheesiest rendition of “America the Beautiful” ever documented.
  • We are a welcome home for pets, whether it’s in our households or in our animal sanctuaries, as well as providing origin stories to many prominent animal rights activists.
  • We produce research universities like nobody’s business. Which creates more business.
  • We have a free press — although there is still plenty of propaganda to go around.
  • Despite all the negative (and accurate) press we read about healthcare bills and bankruptcy, we also read stories like this one about Micah Fletcher, whose hospital bills were waived after he was stabbed defending two young women on the MAX in Portland.

We have the potential to continue being all this and more.

Photo by Megan Wallin