This week, we celebrate Independence Day here in the good ol US of A, because 243 years ago from this Thursday, a bunch of radical colonials decided they were tired of living under the tyrannical rule of England’s King George and declared enough was enough. They told George they were tired of his taxes and lack of voice in Parliament, and after a few tough years of whipping the asses of limey redcoats, they gained their freedom to operate as they saw fit. So, off we went as a new nation, making rules, refining them, defending them from threats at home and abroad, and living an experiment in democracy.
We unsuccessfully tried to divide the country in two during the Civil War and I hope folks will quit fighting that fight one day. We stopped hostile attempts to take over the world twice because those Germans were awfully persistent. We fought “police actions” in little known foreign lands that destroyed the minds and bodies of so many young men and women. We fought in the desert to topple a corrupt regime (because they had oil). And most recently, we’ve been at war for nearly 20 years battling terrorism around the world.
At home, we’ve struggled with equality, the idea that all men and women are created equally and have certain inalienable rights as was stated so prominently in our Constitution. That struggle included slavery and the people stolen from their homes, brought to the America, forced to work for no pay, and treated inhumanely. There was the fight for equality for women beginning with women’s suffrage. There was the fight for workers’ rights and child labor restrictions. There was the fight against robber barons and unfair business practices. There was the fight against poverty during the great depression. There was and is the fight for civil rights for all Americans based on race, sexual orientation, religion, and many other categories.
Through all the strife and troubles of our past, I think we’ve slowly but surely gotten things more right than wrong. However, we have a long way to go, and I’m confident that through all the societal hiccups and setbacks, we’ll continue to overcome issues from our past and new problems as they present themselves. We’ve proven ourselves to be a resilient people, and thank God I was lucky enough to land here.
It will come as no surprise to most folks who know me that I’m not a very conservative person, especially when contrasted against my fellow Southerners. I don’t agree with the vocal majority around here on issues of abortion, gun control, religious freedom, LGBTQ issues, climate change, civil rights, racism, immigration, assistance for the poor, healthcare, and lots of other issues. When I see images of the President hugging the flag or hear him spouting divisive nonsense, see anti-immigration protesters waving the flag, or hear people being interviewed as they await entry to some conservative political rally, it feels like that group is asserting that they’re more American than anyone who disagrees with them at the best and that their opposition hates America at the worst.
Just yesterday there was a story in my local news about some folks protesting outside a Barnes and Noble because the bookstore was turning children gay. In the picture there were three adults and a pre-teen child surrounded by signs calling down God’s thunder on the gay factory disguised as a bookstore. Among the rainbow colored poster boards the child must have colored judging by the level of artistic sophistication, one of the protesters was holding an American flag as if Uncle Sam had issued the protest order. I don’t bemoan their right to protest no matter how much I disagree, but it burns my biscuits when they act like they’re extra American because they hate gay people.
This is my America too. There’s enough room for all of us and our differences and the opportunity to express those differences openly and freely. (Although, I’m not opposed to making an exception for people that yell Roll Tide.) If you aren’t Native American, you came from somewhere else and assimilated into the undulating, ever-changing soup of cultures and ideas from around the world simmering and melding into the fragrant and flavorful concoction that is America.
This year, I’m gonna celebrate and be thankful I live in America where I don’t have to agree with all manner of things I don’t believe in order to be a patriotic American. So, huzzah to Uncle Sam, praise Jesus, pass the tater salad, and remember to wear eye protection during those bottle rocket wars!
Happy Independence Day to all y’all!