O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
~~ Katharine Lee Bates
I hear people criticize my country of birth. I hear it all the time. And to be fair, in some ways, what they’re saying it right. I mean, just the other day I was saying that it’s pretty shameful that the US was the twenty-first country to legalize same-sex marriage (so that now it could just be called marriage). Twenty-first! Canada was fourth. What kind of example is that to the world?
And yes there is corruption. Heck! We not only had George W as President, but we had the fool twice!
But what I am constantly overwhelmed by is just how lucky I am to be born here. Not only is it a gorgeous place, with incredibly diverse country—from ocean coasts to deserts to mountains to plains and canyons and more more more…. But I can travel it any time I want and go anywhere I want. I don’t need permission. I don’t need papers. I just hop in my car and go.
And the opportunities. They are endless. I might have to work my butt off to get them, but there is no official, no government, no order, telling me that I can’t do whatever it is that I want to do.
I have freedom of speech. I have freedom of religion—and what some people are finally getting into their heads is that doesn’t mean freedom to choose the denomination of Christianity one likes most. That means any religion. And it means no religion.
We also have a separation of church and state. Very important. And something some people are having to learn when the get their panties in a wad over the whole God intended marriage to be one man and one woman. It doesn’t matter (and of course I don’t believe that is what God intends but we won’t go there today). It means a religious issue does not force others to comply to their religious views.
And importantly for me, I have the ability to be openly gay. I won’t be executed. I won’t be imprisoned. And while GLBT people’s aren’t yet fully protected as far as jobs and such, it’s coming. It will be soon. The whirlwind has already started and it can’t be put back into a bottle.
I think of this. There are seventy-nine countries where it is illegal to be homosexual! This list includes Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India (!!), Pakistan, Palestine/Gaza Strip, Jamaica, and Russia (!!).
Two Moroccan gay men have been recently sentenced to four months each in jail after they were arrested for standing too close to one another as they posed for a photograph in front of a historic site in Rabat!
And the lack of liberty and freedom in other countries! The cruel punishments. The genocide!
I remember hearing on NPR about an Iraqi woman who was doused and lit on fire for stealing a cup of oil for her family!
I listen to people complain about this country and I just sit there in awe. I’m not naïve. I don’t think this country is perfect. But compared to life in many other countries? Why I am living in a paradise.
I access to so much that I would never have access to in other countries. The child I financially support (through Children International) who lives in India has no running water in his tiny house with the corrugated tin roof!
The United States was and is The Great Experiment. Nearly two-hundred and fifty years ago they founded the country I live in and it has been in many ways an example for the world. And through no part of my own, I was born here and get to live here.
I have a house and a husband and a job and a dog and a vehicle and I can do just about anything I want.
And I am proud of that!
And so today, on my country’s birthday on the Fourth of July, I am so grateful to be living here and to be a citizen.
I can’t think of anyplace I would rather live.
photos by pippalou, mockingbird and mensatic from morgueFile