Posted by Ed on 1/2/09 (written 12/29/08)
And so another year has come and gone. This one may have been no different than others, with more than its share of war (Iraq, Afghanistan, to name just a couple of parochial concern), pestilence (cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe), famine (in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa), natural disasters (Hurricane Ike, Southern California fires), terrorist attacks (India and Israel), and economic strife (on Wall Street, Main Street and just about everywhere else).
But for those of us who witnessed and then helped decide the presidential election in the United States, and for many throughout the rest of the world, the election of Barack Obama on November 4 marked a revival of a love affair with his country. America has again captured those feelings of hope and optimism that have so often been its hallmark.
And so, as a new year begins, with a new president about to take charge of the nation’s direction, here are five reasons to once again love the good old U.S. of A, five reasons to proclaim America the greatest nation ever known to humankind.
The pioneer spirit that led the earliest English subjects to seek a new life in the “new world” has remained a uniquely American quality. From the earliest days of the settling of the colonies to the fervor for independence that led to a revolutionary war to the westward expansion marked by battles with native residents fighting to preserve their place and by natural impediments (geographical and climatic) that knew no mercy, and even to the battles to settle the rights of all who lived under its flag, the first generations of life in America were marked by men and women who were pioneers.
And that spirit continued with the explosion of industrial development that led to motorized vehicular travel and then to air travel and, finally, to space travel. Americans have always sought to “break the mold” of their forebears’ standard of living, and as a result, America has been the leading nation in scientific and technological discoveries and advances.
From its earliest days, America has been a land of opportunity, offering a new start to men and women from other lands. Many were seeking economic security; others looked to escape religious persecution; some even hoped for political and intellectual freedom. The diversity that has resulted from this influx of the many has made the country a veritable “great melting pot,” wherein peoples of all ethnicities, religions, nationalities and creeds have been assimilated into their new homeland.
Immigrants often hold onto their native languages, but their children quickly become bi-lingual and their grandchildren often know little if any of the language of their grandparents, if, indeed, their grandparents still revert to their “mother tongue” by then.
But the strength of America’s diverse population is not measured solely in the capacity of those from distant lands to “learn the lingo.” Rather, it is in the cultural and social mores that are preserved through generations of assimilation. Thus, Americans can be (and are) proud of their Italian, German, Greek, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, or African heritages, keeping their customs and traditions intact in holiday celebrations and in family events like weddings, even as they otherwise act (and are) as American as everyone else around them.
The land that is the new home for all who have come to its shores is a wealth of nature’s bounty, with a climate that crosses the mid-latitude regions of the “lower 48” that provides ideal conditions for agricultural plenty the likes of which few, if any, other countries can claim. In a normal year (marked by average amounts of precipitation and sunshine), America’s “breadbasket” can yield enough produce to feed the world.
But this richness of the land extends beyond the practical and productive to the grand and seemingly divine. How else to explain the majesty of the Grand Tetons or Niagara Falls or California’s giant Sequoias, or the splendor of the beaches and shorelines of both oceans, or the wonder of wilderness areas like Yellowstone and Yosemite, or the artistic tableaus that can be found along the country’s many picturesque lakes and rivers?
The nation has endured wars and economic slides, natural disasters and even corrupt governments because it is bound by a means of adjudicating disputes and resolving differences that honors the rule of law. The genius in the Constitution is that it establishes a method by which the law can be both honored and amended. By means of compromise the document emerged, and through continuing compromise the document’s essence has been preserved.
The system of checks and balances between the three parts of government may not be unique, but the integrity of that system has been unchallenged ever since its inception, with nary a threatened military coup or a revolutionary upheaval ever emerging as a serious threat. And when the nation was torn asunder by its one great civil war, a steadfast president marshaled the forces to hold it together.
What that Constitution embodies is a vision of how people from all walks of life should be permitted to conduct their lives. That vision is perhaps best reflected in the document’s Bill of Rights, wherein principles of individual freedom and justice are guaranteed as are the rights to equal treatment by the government and equal opportunity by the society.
If the vision is not always perfectly realized, it is as perfectly conceived as any that men and women have yet devised. And it is a vision that over the generations has become the American heritage, ever glowing as a “shining beacon on a hill.”
And so, America, this great country of ours, is truly a land of riches, riches born of the pioneer spirit that marked its birth and continue to guide its people, riches wrought from the diversity that comes from all parts of the world, riches embodied in the wealth of nature’s bounty that its land provides, riches maintained through adherence to a well-defined system of governance that honors the rule of law, and riches that emanate from a vision that remains the greatest experiment in the history of human societies.