Tomorrow is our nation’s Independence Day celebration. It is a day for patriotism and celebration, a day to show our all-Americanism. I intend to be a full-fledged participant in the festivities by taking my daughters to a parade complete with color guard, fire trucks, floats, tumblers, and tossed candy followed by a classic cook out with friends and family. It will, Lord willing, be a wonderful 4th of July celebration.
But, contrary to Lee Greenwood’s insidious song and sentiment of the day, I am not “proud to be an American.” To be precise, I am not proud because I am American. I am not proud because pride is for those things which we accomplish, those achievements for which we deserve credit. How did I end up an American? I was born one, and I would be a fool to be proud of something for which I can take no credit. My Americanism was granted to me and is a gift, not a status.
This does not make me unpatriotic. Patriotism ought not to be a prideful touting of our countries greatness but rather a joyful exclamation of it and defense of what makes it that way. My parade going and grilled meat eating are not hypocritical. They are thankful. I am thankful.
I am thankful for so many of my fellow Americans – my military family members and those with whom they served, those industrious and ingenious workers who make our country go, those who have traveled and toiled to become American, and the entrepreneurs who continue to expand the borders of thought and technology. I am certainly proud of these Americans.
I am also thankful to be an American. And there is much greatness for which to be thankful. We have unparalleled freedoms, ease of living, education opportunities, and access to information and knowledge. Our flag waving should be a celebration of goodness, not a flaunting of our betterness. We were given these good gifts even as we have worked to sustain them.
In all, we ought to be humbled on this Independence Day. This American life we lead is an undeserved opportunity (at least it is for those of us in the middle class and with white skin), one that we did not choose. We did not find it neither did we claim the right to it; we were given it as a gift. Even who did strive to gain their freedom by becoming Americans entered into the gift of opportunity.
This great nation of which we are part is our home, yes, but it is a resource too. It is something which we are tasked to steward and care for and utilize for good. It is not a rank, a status, or a high standing in the world. But it is great. To be given the opportunity to live, work, and serve in such a place as this should not lead us to gloat but to rejoice. It ought not make us proud, but rather it should humble us in thanks.
This column originally appeared at WORLD News Group’s website (wng.org). Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2012 WORLD News Group. All rights reserved.