Saturday, July 4, 2015

Birthday Presence and Presents

Today everywhere, except on that side of the International Date Line is the 4th of July. But only here in The Land of the Round Doorknobs, or as the Germans used to say somewhat wistfully and enviously, Das Land der unbegrenzten Möglichkeiten, is it Independence Day.

We who have always lived in this society and enjoyed all the protections our Constitution and Bill of Rights provide may sometimes take for granted what others elsewhere cannot, in their wildest fantasies, ever even imagine. For generations, everyone everywhere has wanted to come to America and be free. Newsflash: they still do. There's a reason why we have a Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor and nobody else does and it doesn't have anything to do with who gave what to whom as a present. 

Who we are and what we do are the envy of the world even when we sometimes do thoughtless, hateful and hurtful things. We are the most powerful nation on earth (and in the history of the world) and I want to believe we embody and epitomize a rare and noble notion that we and we alone should determine who we are, where we live, how we worship and for whom we vote as leaders. 

We are the United States of America, not because our cars are faster, our grocery shelves better stocked, our homes prettier, our armed forces more powerful, our hair bouncier, our teeth whiter or our clothes cleaner. We are the sum of all of that and ten thousand other things--the freedom to get up tomorrow morning and move across the street or across the country and never need anyone's permission. The right (some feel it's a duty) to think our elected leadership are cloth-eared clowns who are leading us to ruin (and have been since 1776, I guess).

We have more freedoms we never use than the rest of the world put together, made possible by everyone who has ever been an American ever since there's been an America to be from. George Bernard Shaw once noted "(p)atriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it." 

But I don't think we feel superior--I'm not always convinced we think at all. But if we did, and do, think, today might be a good day to think a little more about who we are and how we're going to pass what we have to our children, as our parents did for us. 

We're a country whose Founders insisted our birthright included, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Not a lot of other places start out with '
fight for your right to party' as the major premise (with 'soda and pie' as the minor premise). It may not make us 'better', only different; but at least for today, different is normal and our normal is better than your normal. Whoever and wherever you are.
-bill kenny 

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