I’m Proud to be an American

It’s hard to believe this may be viewed as controversial for me to say, but I’m going to say it anyway:  I’m proud to be an American.

I’m proud to be from a country that values freedom, human rights, and equal opportunity before the law.  It’s easy for us to forget the ideals our country was founded on (such as individuals being endowed by their creator with equal, inalienable rights) were revolutionary concepts that have changed the course of human history for the better.

I’m proud of our country’s value for diversity–not only when it comes to race and ethnicities–but also in thought and beliefs.  This too was a revolutionary concept realized by our founders in that all have the right to say, believe, and practice our beliefs in how we deem appropriate.

I’m proud of our country’s past both for our revolutionary ideals that changed the course of mankind and our ability to overcome many evils that have plagued not only our country but much of human history.  The process still continues to this day.

USA

I’m proud to be an American.

Now that’s not to say I’m proud of everything about America.  I’m not okay with the injustice, divisiveness, and the outright evil that’s been displayed throughout our country both in the past and the present.

Though our founding principles are about as ideal as any country’s principles could ever be, America isn’t perfect–never has been and never will be.  We aren’t short on atrocities that myself and most all Americans are ashamed of.  However, I’d argue there’s not one country, nation, or people group that doesn’t have atrocities they are and should be ashamed of.  

The difference with America is due to so many brave Americans who sought to make our revolutionary founding principles a reality, we’ve been able to overcome many of our great evils and atrocities.  And though we still battle injustices today, we’ve come a long way in improving not only our country but the entire world in a powerful way.

It’s been disheartening to see all the divisiveness that’s gone on recently.  I’ve seen my fellow citizens commit heinous crimes against one another, government officials not step up and do their duty protecting the rights of their people, and hateful rhetoric being dished out from both sides of the political aisle.  This is not the America I am proud to be a part of nor want to raise my family in.

It’d be easy for me to just sit back and say nothing, but I love this country too much to continue to sit on the sidelines and feel compelled to use my freedom of expression to share my thoughts on our country’s current status…

4th Hat

I truly believe a big issue we currently face in our country is the extreme polarization we’ve allowed politics to play in our lives.  Our political beliefs went from being our opinions on how we should improve our country to becoming–for many of us–our religious identities; and not only that, those with opposing beliefs have somehow also turned into our mortal enemies.  This new type of attitude has turned us into a divided people that refuses to listen and respect one another–as opposed to a united one working together with the best interests of our country at heart.

This is simply my two-cents and nothing more, but I believe we need to do the following if we’re to somehow find a common unity and love for our country again:

  1. Acknowledge that though our founding principles are about as ideal as any can be, America (like all of humanity) is made up of imperfect people who have different thoughts, opinions, and beliefs on how we go about achieving said principles.  Our right to have these differences in opinion, though at times frustrating, are a part of what makes our country so great.
  2. Recognize that though we all long for a perfect society (which I personally believe is a desire we’ve all been given from God), it’ll never be achieved this side of heaven.  Though striving to achieve this perfection is certainly a noble cause worth pursuing, our country is made up of imperfect people and evil will always exist–no matter how much we combat it.  The key is in how we go about empowering each other to do good and limit evil from happening as much as possible.
  3. Instead of always emphasizing our differences, I believe we need to be mindful of and focus more on American values that unite us.  There’s three in particular that standout to me:
  • The value of freedom
  • The value of equality
  • The value of family

The Value of Freedom

I think we too often forget and take for granted the revolutionary concept of people being free from government persecution and tyranny–that is that the government works for the people and is governed by the people.  This is a great blessing we all benefit from and has been achieved to a level never before seen in human history here in America.

All of us value freedom and we need to be sure no matter what our differences are that we continue to limit the government’s ability to impact our lives and infringe upon our rights as outlined in our Constitution.  These are rights our founding fathers recognized were endowed upon us from our creator and are rights we shouldn’t be willing to relent–no matter the argument.

The Value of Equality

Another revolutionary idea our founding fathers recognized was that all people were created equal.  Obviously we’ve been far from perfect in our ability to live up to this principle but it was an idea that was unheard of in it’s time and yet still rings true today.  

It’s our duty to make sure every person is valued as an individual uniquely created by their creator, that each individual has an equal opportunity before the law to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, and that each individual doesn’t have their rights unjustly infringed upon.  When such an infringement does occur due to an evil act of an individual(s), we need to hold the guilty party accountable and be sure we have the proper systems in place to help prevent such infringements from occurring again.

Now a big misunderstanding I feel many have in today’s America is the difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome.  In a free society, all should be afforded an equal opportunity before the law to pursue our lives to the fullest extent using our individual talents and abilities.  In a free society, however, demanding each individual have an equal outcome is impossible to achieve without infringing upon other’s freedoms.  In fact, I’d argue it’s impossible to achieve–period.

Therefore, to help individuals live a fuller life, we as a country need to start emphasizing the personal virtues of responsibility, hard work, respect, integrity, and determination.  These virtues will not guarantee us success but they’ll certainly empower us to use our freedoms to more adequately pursue our potential, be more likely to realize our goals, and make us more capable of helping those of less fortunate circumstance.  As opposed to what is required in pursuance of equal outcomes, which includes envy, entitlement, deflection of responsibility, governmental control, and the destruction of others.  

In regards to the law, equal opportunity must be our focus if we’re to truly live in a free and just society.

The Value of Family

Now when I speak of my opinions on freedom and equality, I recognize I speak from a place of privilege.  My privilege was a blessing given to me that I had no control over.  It was the privilege of being born into a quality family where both my parents loved and cared for me, taught me life skills and moral virtues I needed throughout my life, and worked hard to raise me in a more ideal circumstance than even what they had themselves.

This privilege did not shield me from hardship, injustice, misfortune, or disappointment but it did afford me the ability to pursue life in a positive way and work to overcome challenges without destroying myself or others.

This is the type of privilege I see less and less of in today’s society and is something we as Americans need to discuss and take more seriously.  As an educator, it breaks my heart to see all the kids out there who don’t have what I had.  Regardless of their race, beliefs, or economic status, a person who doesn’t have the privilege of coming from a loving and supportive family is going to be at a disadvantage–no matter what governmental rules and regulations we put in place.

Therefore, we need to take our responsibilities to our families more seriously.  If you were given the privilege (like I had) of growing up in a loving and caring family, we need to make sure we do everything in our power to pass along that privilege to our children–there is no greater gift we can give them or our country!

If you weren’t given that privilege (whether it was under your parents’ control or not), my heart feels for you and I recognize your journey is likely much harder than what mine has been.  But no matter where you are now or what you went through, you can give your kids something you never had.  It doesn’t require a certain income or even intelligence level.  All it requires is a commitment to love those closest to you in a sacrificial way that is becoming less and less prevalent in today’s society.

Emphasizing and valuing family, in my opinion, is where we need to focus more of our country’s attention if we want to see more productive lives being led by our people and less injustice throughout our land.  Our government was never meant to parent us with life skills and a moral foundation or guarantee us a successful or fulfilling life.  Our government was meant to protect us from those who wish to infringe upon our rights (including the government itself) so that we might freely pursue such things for ourselves.

4th of July

It’s up to us to take care of ourselves and our families, to raise our children in a way that empowers them to be quality people who can pursue their goals, and to pass along the privilege of a loving and caring family for our children to have as a foundation for both their lives and the life of our country.

Thanks to those Americans who came before us, each of us has the freedom to use our gifts and abilities to do this.  

Will proceeding with these ideas solve all our problems?  Of course not.  But I certainly believe it’s a great place to start.

I say we get to it…

-BH

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