Happy Independence Day!
This year, I have a bit of a different outlook on my country. As those of you who know me are aware, I HATE to travel. Car, plane, bus, whatever. I loathe it.
But this year, I sucked it up and our family made the tip to one of my Motherlands - Ireland. I loved it there. Hated the trip, but it was worth it. We all loved it. In fact, we are already planning a return trip. That's how great it was - I am going to voluntarily spend the equivalent of two full days battling motion sickness and general crankiness - just to return.
Ireland is amazing - it's clean, and the scenery is so beautifully varied that it defies logic. And I have to say, I felt a true connection to the land - especially on the coast in Connemara. I have roots there, and my entire being knew it on contact.
But this is about America - or The States - as many abroad call it. I have to say I am not proud of my country of birth these days. Sure there are tremendous exceptions - the Supremes delivered a mixed bag in their last session, but two great strides forward for civil rights for the LGBT community helped take the sting out of the Voting Rights disaster. A rant for another time.
I am not proud that, unlike other countries, we are embracing fracking and other environmentally dangerous activities for money. I don't care whether you are for it or against it - it is going to cause long-term damage to our water supply and to the stability of our land. But apparently our current national motto is a Profit > Risk analysis. Remember ye olde Cost-Benefit Analyis? Bye bye. Whatever makes the gold makes the rules.
I am not proud that, unlike other countries, we spend obscene amounts of money electing representatives who end up representing their own egos and self interests, instead of The People.
I am not proud that we no longer have what we used to call an Expectation of Privacy. It seems almost quaint now. My kids don't even understand the concept. They just assume everything is accessible.
I am not proud that our government is not functioning. It doesn't matter which party you identify with - and frankly, on some issues, it's hard to tell them apart. When our legislative and executive branches have bullshitted their way to a complete standoff, the system has failed. It's up to We the People to make sure the damage is not irreparable. But that is yet another rant for another day.
I am not proud that we are seen by many other countries as egotistical and self-centered, despite the fact that we pour our own resources into many other countries to help them. We don't get a thank you - we get effigies. And I am certianly not proud that we are still fighting wars we had no business starting. Do I even need to identify who is to blame on that one? ;)
Still, I came home and I was glad to come home. Because my family is here. My friends are here. And ultimately, my freedom is here. Did you know that we are one of the few countries in the world that actually have an enforceable Bill of Rights? Start paying attention and you will hear story after story of people in other countries who disappear into the prison system and cannot seem to get out. (Oh wait - Gitmo - shame on us for that one.) Prompt hearings and bail? Not guaranteed. Phone calls and Counsel? Not everywhere.
In fact, one of my greatest fears abroad was that I was going to make some kind of wisecrack and end up in prison. That was my mantra every time I was tempted to mix it up with someone - "Two words: Belfast. Prison." I've seen the movies. I know what goes on there. It's like the Hotel California, but without the sex, drugs and other fun excesses. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. I know this sounds psychotic on my part. Too bad. It happens and I was determined not to become some Lifetime Movie plot. I mean, who would play me?
Our country is so young - all you need to do is take a look at the architecture in other countries - hell - most of them have stone walls that were already ancient before our country was even born. Our kids pointed out that we do have an ancient history of our own - the Native American history. Except we went out of our way to destroy it. Something else I am not proud of and hope to find a way to help on that score.
So we need to continue to grow up. We need to pull it together and act like a grown-up society, not one run by multiple asshats who are more concerned with their own hubris and financial statements than the welfare of our Nation. We need a free press that actually reports the real truth, rather than helping to manufacture dreck masquerading as news. We need to fully embrace equal rights for everyone and stop labeling people based on our own fears - even Yoda knows how that works.
We need to remember that our work as a United States is just beginning - we need some of that 'when the going gets tough' attitude that we seem to apply only to sports. We need to snap out of the complacency that makes us feel as if bitching on Facebook or over a beer is the equivalent of working toward a solution.
It's exhausting just thinking about it, isn't it? So was the fight among our founding fathers just to write the Declaration of Independence. And the war that followed. And drafting the Constitution - which is still a living document. And all the other wars our families fought to get us to this point. You don't get to be the greatest nation in the world by sitting on your ass and bitching about it. I fear that's what our generation is doing, and we need to snap out of it.
But first, let's take a day off and enjoy cookouts and fireworks and family and friends. Because even if we didn't earn it, there are men and women who did - so just remember to honor them while you celebrate. And then figure out what you can do to help.
Oh! One more thing. If you haven't read the Declaration of Independence lately, do it.