By Jennifer Richardson
I know how an election year can obscure our collective perspective, and our country and our lives are flawed, and we are in the midst of a pandemic–but yes, even in 2020 life is good!
We live in an amazing place; many people on this planet do not even have the liberty to express themselves. Some days it feels like we forget that we reside in one of the freest nations in the world. Why do we need reminders about our identity? Because losing touch with who we are as a nation could gradually result in a subtle disdain for what has been given to us.
America is a nation of ideals to be aspired to, not just a group of people simply seeking justice, although justice should be the methodology through which we manage our endeavors. We are a nation that encourages the dissonance of multiple perspectives as a platform for improvement, not simply to engage in constant conflict.
We should be a nation that understands that human lives were the price paid for our freedom and way of life. People literally died watching their own blood soak into the soil to give us the right to have a voice, and many others have given their lives since the birth of our nation defending our ideals.
We get tears in our eyes and place our hands over our hearts to feel a quickening heartbeat when we hear our national anthem. We honor our flag. We respect our national symbols because they represent our ideals, and the sacrifices made for those ideals, not because they imply perfection.
We are a nation that allows people to celebrate their culture and what built them, not a country that buries all connections to faith, family, and tradition to become a global citizen.
We are a nation that knows unity is the goal, not uniformity; we don’t all have to agree on everything to like each other and love our country. We welcome all and their traditions as long as they want to participate in our national identity.
Patriotism has no party affiliation and belongs to us collectively. Loving our country is good and does not exclude loving other countries and peoples. We are imperfect, but we are fully capable of acknowledging and amending our ways and our founding documents.
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 allegiance is not to a candidate, or a party, or a person. Our shared allegiance is to the ideals of the constitution of the United States of America. We respect and adhere to the peaceful transfer of power because of this shared allegiance, not because we agree on who was elected. Washington knew that the fullest expression of individual liberty could only come within the collective respect for our sacred principles.
We Americans are held together by ideas. Freedom is an incredible idea, but it is not a natural state and it must be instilled in each new human born into it.
There is a reason that so many global residents seek to enter and live in our scrappy, independent, proud, imperfect, young upstart of a nation. They understand the message our youngest citizens should be hearing; every new generation must be taught that we are The United States of America, and we are united by the ideals embedded in our founding documents, and we stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit.
Even in the social upheaval of an election year, we should remember who we are and be grateful to be American.