In honor of the holiday today, I decided to write a somewhat different kind of blog than what I usually write. Typically, as is the case with most travel writing, I visit a specific destination (or multiple destinations), and write about the experience. Following the lead of some of my favorite travel writing, I also tend to include my thoughts on the place I visited, the experience I had, or the significance of something related to it.
But last night, I traveled all of 12 blocks to Denver’s Civic Center Park to watch the firework show put on by the City of Denver. Not exactly a major trip- I walked there! However, just as certain places and experiences can lead to significant pondering and revelations, specific events, especially ones of historical significance like this one, can also lead to similar conclusions.
I found myself pondering what it means to be an “American” and whether or not this is something I should be proud of. Over the course of my life I have heard a wide variety of perspectives on this. Many in this country sincerely believe the USA to be the greatest country in the world. Some say this based on blind Patriotism, but some say this based on well though out reasoning. On the other end of the spectrum, we have those that do not place that much pride in their country. They either believe that taking pride in a specific nation is a silly concept, or are ashamed of this country based on something about it that they find foolish.
I grew up being pretty certain of America’s greatness. But, that was at a time, the 1980s and 1990s, when it was quite easy to place a lot of faith in the USA. The new millennium has been a bit rougher for this country. Since the dawn of the new millennium, we’ve had a more shaky economy, more controversial events and political decisions, and some social movements that have angered people on all sides of the spectrum. Nearly every American, from every part of the country, from every sociological, economic, political, or ethnic group, and of nearly any personality type, can point to something that the USA has done since 2000 that has made them feel utterly ashamed of our country.
What I realized while watching the fireworks last night, and pondering the anniversary of our Independence today is that while there are some things about our society and our country that are messed up, unfair, and inefficient, in the grand scheme of things, we are still pretty well off, and we are still a truly great country. Most of us can count on a lot of the basic necessities of life, like clean water. When we speak our minds, about any issue, we worry about being shunned, or dismissed, rather than being imprisoned or executed by those in power. Anybody can make their best effort at being anything, and we are all free to associate with whoever we please. And, while we have a political culture that has become polarized, and verbally vicious, violence between “warring” political factions in the U.S. has been very minimal thus far.
And, we have a variety of different adventures we can pursue right here in the U.S. The breadth of the travel opportunities is quite possibly our greatest asset. Within the borders of the United States, you can find everything from the frozen tundra of Alaska to tropical Hawaii. We have the peaks of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains, as well as the perfectly flat regions of Northern Illinois and Indiana. From the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Isle Royal National Park in Michigan, many different types of natural scenery can be found right here in the United States. From the hustle and bustle of New York City to the quiet ranches of Wyoming, every pace of life can be found. And, nearly every activity, from skiing to sailing can be found in great abundance here. As a matter of fact, I cannot even keep track of the number of places I would like to visit, the list just keeps on getting longer as I hear about more and more great places.
I am not one of those rare people that has absolutely no shame regarding any aspect of my country at this point in time. Like most of the rest of you, I have a list in my head of things I would love to change. I undoubtedly count myself amongst the clear majority of Americans that believe this country is on the wrong track. And, I would genuinely like to see some action taken on certain items to make this a better places to live. However, on this Fourth of July, I would like to show some appreciation for what we do have, and how fortunate we are to have enjoy the freedom and prosperity that we do enjoy. And, while I do not believe there are no other great places to live in this world, I am still proud of the one that I call home.