The United States gets its share of heat. America meddles too much in other people’s affairs, people say. Live and let live, and keep your neo-colonialist fingers out of other people’s business.
True, this country makes its share of mistakes. But, in spite of our collective shortcomings, there is still much to admire in this country. We Americans can—and should—hold our heads high.
This endorsement comes from a foreigner, actually. I grew up in British Columbia, came to America when I was 17, and have chosen to live here for the 27 years since. It felt mighty strange for me as a freshman in college to register for the American draft. When I first heard students saying the Pledge of Allegiance, I didn’t know the words.
I’ve grown to admire this country deeply though, and today it feels like home. Perhaps, because I’m still a relative newcomer, I’m permitted to tell a few stories that may counter some of the anti-American sentiment that at times shows up among our colleagues, acquaintances, and sometimes even ourselves.
Hopefully these stories cool the heat, offer perspective, and invite discussion. Let me tell just two.
A while back I was talking with some Canadians friends. Good guys, yet both had adopted an arm’s length perspective about America. We were bullies, they said. Or at least the rest of the world looked at the U.S. that way.
Perhaps, I said. But hostilities exist, so how does North America collectively meet them? Consider that Canada itself is a country rich in natural resources—timber, oil, fishing, and minerals.
Plenty of other countries (or the militant extremists within their countries) want what Canadians have, and not all of those other countries are on friendly terms with the Great White North. What’s to prevent any of those rogue countries from marching into Canada and taking charge?
Nothing against the Canadian military, but it’s necessarily small by comparison. The larger America military is simultaneously protecting Canada’s interests too. It puts a person in a difficult position to both criticize something and benefit from it at the same time.
And other countries besides Canada fall into this same boat. Some may like the sound of this, and some may not, but most of the free world benefits either directly or indirectly from the umbrella of protection offered by the American military.
“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf,” wrote George Orwell.
That’s what I tried to communicate to my friends. Don’t kick over the ladder you stand on. When I lived in Canada, I, too, benefited from the protection of the United States. That instills gratitude in me, not derision.
On a recent taxi ride from a hotel to the Dallas airport, I struck up a conversation with the driver. He was wrinkled and gray-haired and told me how he had lived in Ethiopia as younger man. He loved his country of origin, but the government there had squashed him and his family, and he was forced to flee.
During the asylum process, he was given the choice to live anywhere in the world. He chose the U.S.A.
I asked what he thought of his decision today.
“I’ve never regretted it,” he said. “Not for a moment. My children grew up well in America. My daughter became a nurse. My son an architect. My wife and I have always had a clean place to live, a car, and enough food on our table. It sure wasn’t like that in our home country.”
I love that story. Versions of it can be found in every state in the union. We were all foreigners once, and either we or our ancestors came to this country looking for a better life.
Years ago, Thomas Jefferson had this crazy idea that all men are created equal. Each person has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
That’s what this country is all about at its core—the idea that all people are free to make something of their lives.
Man, that’s a good idea. A great idea, in fact.
Sure, this country has made mistakes, and I hope we never cease to debate those mistakes vigorously and set those mistakes right whenever possible.
But, in spite of our collective mistakes, there is still much to admire in this country.
We Americans can—and should—hold our heads high.
Question: What else is to admire about America?
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