By Jennifer Richardson
As I watched a glorious fireworks show this month, I was reminded how grateful I am to live in land of the free and the home of the brave. We should all remind each other that Americanism is not inherited, it must be taught again to each new generation.
We are a nation of individual imperfections aspiring to collective ideals. We encourage dissonance as a platform for improvement, not just to engage in constant conflict. Social justice is not our only goal, but the more we uphold our tenet that all men are created equal, the closer we get.
We are a nation that understands and values the lives that were sacrificed for our freedom and way of life. We get tears in our eyes, and the hands resting over our hearts feel a quickening beat, when we hear our national anthem. We honor our flag because it is a symbol of our ideals and the sacrifices made for those ideals, not because our flag implies perfection.
We fought for citizen-governance. We ask citizens to devote limited time to public service and the crafting of legislation, and then ask them to return to the role of citizens to live under the laws they have created.
We allow people to celebrate their culture and what built them, not bury all connections to faith, family, and tradition to become a global citizen. Unity is the goal, not uniformity; we don’t all have to agree on everything to like each other and our country.
People literally died watching their own blood soak into American soil to give future generations the right to have a voice and a vote. Unless you decide to run for office someday, there is no perfect politician that exactly reflects every opinion and value you hold dear, and there never will be. Educate yourself about the candidates, the one that causes you the least internal conflict or paves the way for something you believe in is your candidate. And then vote; check the box or write them in, the only wasted vote is the one that is never cast.
Patriotism has no party affiliation and belongs to us collectively. We welcome all peoples and their traditions as long as they truly want to participate in our national identity. Our culture is defined by our living documents, and it is these ideas, not any particular brand of politics, that deserve our loyalty.
George Washington, in his farewell address as he was leaving the office of the newly minted position of President of the United States, said these words, “This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”
Our fidelity is not to a party or a person. Our commitment is to the ideals of the constitution of the United States of America. We adhere to the peaceful transfer of power because of this shared allegiance, not because we agree on who was elected. Our fullest expression of individual liberty comes within the collective respect for our sacred principles. Loving our country is good, and does not exclude loving other countries and peoples.
There is a reason that so many global residents seek to enter and make a life in our scrappy, independent, patriotic, proud, imperfect, young upstart of a nation. Most people throughout history have lived without freedom. They understand the message our youngest citizens should also be hearing; every new generation of Americans must be taught that we are The UNITED States of America, and we stand together, for life, liberty, and the pursuit.