But, that's not where I want to dwell on this cold January morning.
Today, for this time, and in this space, I'd like to express why this country is worth every drop of blood we have shed to establish and defend it over the past two hundred and thirty two years, since the Declaration of Independence was signed.
I just read a blogger's latest post. Her username was, "carebear". She was trying to express something admirable to write about America, to a foreigner who had ask her: "What's so great about America?" Her response was, to be kind, rather tepid. There was no fire or spirit, or pride in the answer which clearly left her feeling somewhat embarrassed. I could tell from her response that she was young, and didn't have a true understanding of the legacy she and other young Americans were about to inherit. She said she was a Fillipina. In a real sense, that is one of the beauties of this country. Every one of our family trees started somewhere else. Even Native Americans came from Siberia long ago.
So, "carebear", from an older American who still cries when the national anthem is sung, and is steeped in the history of this wonderful country, I'd like to give a very short list that you can share the next time someone asks you, What's so great about America?
1. The Constitution
We are a nation of immigrants, founded by immigrants, on the principle of law. Not just any law, but the mother of all laws. The Constitution which establishes, a government, of the people, by the people, and for the people, and protects the rights of every citizen. It says we are all equal. It says we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That is not startling news anymore. But, it rocked the world when it was written 232 years ago, because there was not another country on the face of the earth that protected the rights of the individual.
If you lived anywhere else at the time, you were basically a slave in the service of whatever monarch or war lord on whose land you may have been living. You lived and died a slave and all of the fruits and products of your labor belonged to the king. He could kill you if he wanted.
2. The Bill of Rights:
The Bill of Rights state without equivocation what your rights are under the Constitution. One of the most important rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights is the freedom of speech. We have the right to say what we want, to criticize the government, to criticize our institutions, to criticize our fellow citizens and to criticize other countries. In many countries, the punishment for speaking-out can be imprisonment, or even death. In America it is not just a right, but, a responsibility and civic duty. In fact that is what this blog is about.
Other Freedoms it enumerates are freedom of press; freedom of religion; freedom of expression; freedom of ownership of private property; freedom of marriage; freedom of employment; freedom of assembly; freedom of education, and freedom from cruel or unusual punishment. Even law-breakers have rights. The government cannot cut off a part of your body like in some other countries.
Would you like to live in a country where a woman is raped and then she is arrested for adultery, which is a capital offense by stoning? Would you like to live in a country where a woman is murdered because she fell in love and had an affair, and her murders were not brought to trial because she had dishonored her family? Would you like to live in a country where your government hunted you down because you weren't a Muslim? I could go on, but, I think you understand that there are places in the world that still live in the Dark Ages.
3. Public Education
We are a country that boldly declares all men were created equal in the eyes of God. The government can not hold us back from reaching your full potential. And in someways it even demands that you reach that potential. It requires that every American child is educated at public expense. There was nothing like it anywhere else in the world at the time. Education was for the rich and upper classes. With an education you can reach your maximum potential, even become the President if you can meet the requirements of the office. Which means there is are no cast systems, where you are destined the stay an untouchable the rest of your life, like there is in India, for example.
Lack of education is sadly why other countries are not able to compete in the world markets. That is still true in much of the world. Some countries only educate the men. Some only provide a very limited religious education that leaves its people warped, without knowledge to improve themselves and the world they live in.
That's why it saddens me even more when I see young Americans squander the opportunity to enrich themselves, and don't take advantage of that education, because they are America's future and the world's best hope of remaining free.
4. The Spirit of the American People
I've listed this as the fourth item, but carebear, its probably the most important item on the list, because the first three items, sprang forth from the enlightened minds and spirits of our immigrant fathers. Those first Americans were the first people in the world to govern themselves. It was those people, armed with those rights, that recognized that with those rights went tremendous responsibility.
The spirit of the American people is what:
Freed themselves from the yoke of oppression by a foreign king;
Abolished slavery by paying a heavy price in blood by forcing its own citizens to respect all human life;
Fought Two World Wars to save other countries from the oppression of Kings and Dictators and then rebuilt those enemy nations as democracies;
Ended the oppression of blacks by state governments from Jim Crowe laws;
Enforced the rights of blacks to education and enacted laws specifically to protect them;
Fought Communism, that enslaved its people, and freed Eastern Europe from its grip;
Sent more aid to impoverished countries than any other nation on earth;
Created the Peace Corp that sent its best and brightest young people around the world to help others;
Put men on the moon and advanced the technology;
Creates more new medical technology;
Been more willing to fight wars and shed their own blood to free others from the oppression of cruel dictators.
Finally dear, carebear, you are a Filipina, but, honey, first of all be proud to be an American. Learn about this country and what it stands for because it is a precious inheritance and deserves more than, "its OK I guess." I could go on with an endless list of other contributions this country has made to the world, but, I hope these will give you enough information, so you'll never be embarrassed ever again about being an American.
My grandmother was a wonderful woman who told me stories about my family history. The lesson that taught me was this, we find pride in knowing where we come from, that's also true about knowing the history of this country. The blood of many Americans fell on foreign soil, so that other people in the world could be free, including the Philippines. That might be a good place to start learning about the American Spirit. World War Two in the Philippines. God bless you. And God bless America.
Question for discussion: What's right with America?
My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!