Friday, July 5, 2013
Happy Birthday, America!
Recently I was part of a homeschooling discussion about teaching American history when you're not so happy about what is going on currently. Various people had suggestions and I chipped in with mine, "live overseas for awhile and then you'll begin to understand what we still have to be proud about."
I was chatting with a friend yesterday afternoon during our mission Fourth of July party. The official party had already happened the night before - all of the fancy food, important guests, speeches, and color guard ceremony - and this one was for the rest of us to hang out at the ambassador's pool eating hamburgers, hotdogs, and leftover American flag cake from the big party. Nobody gave any speeches or had guests of honor, it was just friends getting together to celebrate our country's birthday. It was a normal day for just about everyone else but us.
While chatting someone else brought up a visit to an orphanage where the children had begged their visitors to stay while they ate so the food wouldn't get taken away from them. Then another lady talked about a visit to a school where all of the children had to bring money in to pay for a fancy lunch to feed the visitors.
My friend and I shook our heads and said the same thing, "I am SO grateful to be American." That something I say almost every day. As I've watched the news about Egypt unfold in stunning deja-vu, I have been so grateful for a long-established democratic process that doesn't make protests the only seemingly viable way to get rid someone who won't give up their 'elected' position. Even when people don't like the outcome of an election, everyone pretty much abides by the decision because that's what you do in a democracy (or republic, if you're being technical).
When I see a police officer in the States, I check my speedometer but not my wallet. If I want to get something done at the DMV, I wait in line just like everybody else, and pay the same fees everyone else does. I can disagree - publicly! - with any policy I don't like and I don't have to worry about Brandon losing his job. If I want to move into a cabin the middle of the woods and not talk to anyone ever again, I can. When somebody, anybody, is interested in my religion, I can tell them about it.
I'm not saying that America is perfect. No country in the world is. There are lots and lots of things going on that worry me (and keep Brandon up at night). I don't think there is anyone in any country in the world that can't complain about something in their country - no matter which part of the political spectrum you come from. But, as my brother-in-law (who also spent some time overseas - and in the UK) once said, the only thing worse than people who see no bad in America is the ones who see no good in it.
When we are young and full of desire to change the world, we often criticize our parents' decisions. They should have done it differently and everything would have been perfect. If only they had consulted me they wouldn't have made so many mistakes. Anybody could do it better than them.
But eventually we grow up, move out, start our own lives, and begin to see all of the wisdom and solid principles our parents brought us up with. Yes, maybe they could have read us some more books, but they also didn't beat us to sleep every night. Dinners were sometimes a little less than gourmet, but they were spending time every night eating dinner with us and fed us every single day. They didn't let us do everything we wanted, but they cared enough to want to keep us safe.
As I've grown up, moved out, and looked at my home country, I can see the solid principles that underpin it and still guide many of the decisions made there. And these principles can continue to guide it many years into the future.
After all (or at least some) of the cake was eaten and streamers cleaned up and children dried off, we headed home through Thursday evening Baku traffic, the windows open to let in the summer dusk. While stuck waiting between a bus two feet away and a truck three feet away, Brandon fiddled with the car stereo. After a few seconds, Boston's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" floated out and mingled through lanes waiting for the light to turn red. We listened while Brandon wove our way home, spreading Forth of July through the city. When it was finished, Kathleen exclaimed, "I like that song! Play it again!" So we did.