Last 4th of July, after silently observing the flag-lowering ceremony, a family member whispered, her voice full of heartfelt emotion, “Aren’t you so proud to be an American?” My not-so-popular response was, “Proud? Not really. But I’m very grateful.” I feel pride when I’ve done something difficult, like earn a scholarship, acquire an advance degree, keep to a fitness regimen, or learn to use social media without hurting myself.
When it comes to being an American citizen
I didn’t leave my homeland and everything I knew to take my chances at building a better life.
I certainly didn’t cross the Atlantic on a sailing ship to establish a colony.
I didn’t fight for my civil rights.
I didn’t rise up from a family history of enslavement or oppression.
I didn’t help build our government.
I didn’t fight in a war.
I didn’t even have to pass an exam.
I’m an American because I was born here. So, I’ll leave pride to others more deserving. For me, I feel very fortunate to have been born in a place and time where I can benefit from others’ hard work. Where my daughter will have abounding opportunities to pursue — and attain — happiness and meaning.
An Amazing, Adaptable Document
I’m grateful to our founders for making a Constitution ambiguous and flexible enough that it could be reinterpreted and amended to adapt to changing times. And I’m grateful to people who have fought to bring about change so that we can live up to the 1776 declaration to the King.
“The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world”
- James Madison
Is it a perfect Union? Of course not. One has only to look at my adopted State’s budget crisis (or potholes, or school closures) to see that we can do better. But it’s a pretty miraculous Republic. And because of our Constitution, better is always within our grasp. Now, if we could just resurrect John Adams to write a new California constitution…
2nd of July: Independence Decided
On July 2nd, 1776 the Resolution for Independence was approved by 12 of 13 states (NY didn’t vote). This was a very big deal, to say the least. John Adams predicted that every July 2nd henceforth would be a day of robust celebration (Marketing and psychology were never his strong suit). On July 4th, the language was finalized and approved.
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.”
- John Adams
One of the ways we can pay homage is to learn more about our history and government. Here are a few of my favorites.
Please add yours!
- American Creation, Joseph Ellis
- His Excellency, Joseph Ellis (biography of George Washington)
- Original Meanings, by Jack Rakove
- The Wordy Shipmates (a lovingly irreverent look at our first puritan roots)
- The Greater Journey, By David McCullough
Related Post: The Freshly-Paved Path
“What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”
- James Madison