The Land Of The Free

Sometimes Americans get an undeserved rep.  We’ve been told that we’re the “ugly Americans” when we are abroad, that we believe the world is our playground, that we have no sense of history or propriety or respect for ideas that are different than our own.  There are a little over 306 million of us, according to the US census bureau.  I think trying to characterize our experiences or our world view in one sweeping statement would be impossible.  I can only offer my sentiments and my experience.

Perhaps we’re a little taken aback by the history or the traditions of other countries, because we live in a country that’s only a toddler in the world perspective – we’re only a little over 200 years old.  We don’t have a tower that’s been protecting the city since the 13th century.  We don’t have a great wall constructed by our citizens that started over two thousand years ago.  It’s not disrespect that makes us loud as much as it’s our giddy wonder to discover something so different than our own experience.  We’re a loud bunch of people – us Americans.  We express our loyalty or our opposition very vocally at any sports stadium or neighborhood bar across our land.  We’re not shy to give you our opinion on anything from Rachel Ray to the Dodgers. 

It all comes down to freedom.  For most of us, we’ve never known anything but freedom.  We believe it’s our right to go as we please, to disagree with our spouses or protest our elected officials or write scathing commentary on any subject that heats us up.  Our ability to choose is so embedded in our personal and national identity that we put it on like a cloak over our jogging suit or sports blazer or cocktail dress.  

That freedom has a price, however.  I’ve stood in the middle of a national cemetery and looked at the rows of white tombstones and I’ve counted the cost.  I’ve been to my sister-in-law’s house and watched her hug her son one last time before he reported for duty overseas. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a few places outside the United States.  No matter where I’ve been or at what stage in my life I’ve traveled, it’s always that first moment when I’m back on native soil that I feel like I can breathe again.  It’s “home” to me, and 306 million other men and women.  May we never take it for granted.

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