On the 235th anniversary of the founding of my country, I would like to say a few words about a few things big and small that I love about America. I have been all around the world, but amazing as much of it is there is nothing like leaving your home to appreciate just what it is that makes it so wonderful.
– I can drink and ask for refills. I spent three months nonstop in the developing world earlier this year, meaning the minor miracle of drinkable tap water still excites me and my children are going to someday be annoyed to death about their mother nagging them to not waste it when so many don’t have access to clean water. Beyond that though, what America does best when it comes to beverages is how when you go into a restaurant you can get water free without asking, and free refills on that and your soda, coffee, etc. With ice too! I may accept that this isn’t the norm in other countries, but I will never get used to it.
– You do not have to pay to go to the bathroom, and it will not be a hole in the ground, plus there will be toilet paper and a seat. It’s probably pretty clean too. As such, we have surpassed the grand majority of the world by way of such minor miracles.
– I love to travel as an American. Ok, I have been gouged on visa fees and will surely complain about the curious custom whereby I need to pay federal taxes next year even if I live abroad, but at the end of the day my government has no issues giving me a passport and I can go anywhere with it relatively hassle-free. Furthermore, with the exception of a few disgruntled European tourists I have always been welcomed all the more for being an American with smiles and curiosity because if nothing else I guarantee you everyone has an opinion or question to share. And most of the world still wants to move here, which leads me to the conclusion that I will worry about us as a nation when people think China is a more appealing place to move to than the other way around.
– Our science and technology are incredible. Right now I am writing this on an Apple computer, I have a General Electric radio and Amazon Kindle within reach, and I have Gmail, Yahoo, and Wikipedia open in separate tabs in Firefox in addition to this WordPress-based blog. Further, up until now virtually all my salary as a scientist (as in all summer jobs and stipends) has been paid for by the National Science Foundation/ Department of Energy/ NASA with relatively little fuss but at a top-rate educational standard. I will never have to leave my country because I would over-qualify myself but rather only leave it when I choose to on my own terms, and this is a luxury so many cannot afford in their home countries unless they sell themselves short.
– In another form of dominance, I love American art and entertainment. Mark Twain, Steven Spielberg, The Beach Boys, Jay Leno, Jackson Pollock, and so many other countless people have made their fame and fortune thanks to “the industry” as it exists to the point where it’s hard to imagine a world without it. I always find Americans quirky because we are essentially the only country I know of where it’s assumed we are the center of the world (for better or worse), and I think a big part of this is because American entertainers have a disproportionate chance to be international stars in ways unfathomable most other places.
– Our geography is the most diverse and majestic. We have everything from frozen tundra to tropical islands to the biggest cities in the world to some of the most desolate landscapes on the planet. Further, we are home to among other things the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Harvard University, the biggest ball of twine (both the claimants in Minnesota and Kansas!), New Hampshire, the Mississippi River, and Mount McKinley.
– The Pittsburgh Steelers. Because, you know, this is a list about what I love! *wink*
– We are actually a very safe nation. Most people don’t realize this because they always assume all of America is something like Harlem, but in actuality petty theft is quite negligible in America compared to other places and few people outside a city bother to lock their doors. Hell when I was growing up in the suburbs we had a car in our driveway unlocked with the keys inside of it but this was blatantly unremarkable because I’ve met loads of other people who have done the same. Once again, it’s not something I did while living in Cleveland, but the fact that there are large parts of the USA where this is routine is rather incredible.
– As a rule, we trust our government. What I mean by this is if I need help I don’t hesitate to call the police, if I am wronged I expect a court case with a jury of my peers, when I vote I do not expect ballot fraud as a matter of course, and when I say I think a politician is an idiot I will not disappear in the middle of the night never to be seen again. Of course we don’t always agree, and of course there are incidents of corruption and scandal, but we don’t have to organize bloody coups to change things. Trust me, this is not the norm in great parts of the world.
– I am from an immigrant family, but we are all Americans. If you immigrate to another country in most parts of the world you will never, ever be considered a “real” member of that nationality even if you get citizenship, and no one would consider your children or perhaps even grandchildren “real” members either. In the great American melting pot, though, everyone is a real American even if you speak another language and eat weird food at home and look a little different. Why the hell wouldn’t you be?
So from this real American, I hope you have all had a lovely Independence Day. May we always be the land of the free and the home of the brave I love so much.