Throwback Thursday- The Top Ten Things that Always Make Me Feel Patriotic

by - Thursday, June 23, 2016

This is a throwback to two summers ago now, but after so much crappy news, I thought I would bring it back in case anyone else needs a reminder that there are great things about this country. 

I don't know if everyone has been feeling this way, but the Supreme Court rulings on labor unions and religious preferences for corporations (businesses aren't people, and Hobby Lobby isn't all that representative of my faith) really bummed me out on a week where we are all supposed to be pretty excited for our nation's birthday (also fireworks, I love fireworks). Despite the immediate frustration of the week, I feel like there are so many reasons to feel good about this country. That's what I want to reflect on now:

10. That we can fight about weeks like these- I want credit for writing the majority of this blog before I read Pag's article this week, but he made a good point, so let's add it here. RBG is a national treasure, and her dissent reminds us all that we have the right to speak openly about our disagreements. We always have the right for real discourse, whether we get in our own way about it or not. I am happy that I can live in a country where I can disagree with you, and you can also think I am full of it.

Update- RBG continues to be totally kickass, but this week talking about Justice Sotomayor might make more sense. 

9. The Rocky Mountains- Driving up to these mountains was one of the most giddy, pride-filled moments of my whole life. Does everyone have that feeling? One of the great things about America is that it is so large and complex that you can live here your whole life and still have it surprise and awe you. It's like learning something new about someone you care about and it only making you love it more. The Rocky Mountains makes the whole place feel bigger.

8. All National Parks- Each time I go, I am pretty blown away that my ancestors lucked out and landed in such a big, strange, and beautiful country. Plus, even on busy days, I have found people at National Parks to be good to each other (unlike airports or shopping malls).

7. That so many people volunteer- 1 in 4 adults volunteered last year, 7.9 BILLION hours of time given to others. Think about how much money that is. Even more exciting, our generation is one of the volunteeringest of recent history, which is pretty impressive when you consider we have infamously been short jobs and basic adult maturity. Our country values donating your time and giving to others (volunteers are twice as likely to donate money as non-volunteers). And it makes building up civic life in our country a team effort, which is pretty badass. Plus, think how many people would never learn to use tools (me? Am I the only one?) if not for this kind of thing. You see the value in your labor when you give it away.

6. Parades and Community Events- Because you get candy, and bands play, and you end up running into someone you really would rather not see. Also, because parades and the like are just another way we give away our time, labor, and often our talents so that the immediate world we live in is a more colorful place. If regula volunteering is a collective effort to help people survive, things like this (mostly i mean toddlers trying to twirl batons) is what makes that life worth living. Americans give their talent away in spades.

Update- I have a whole new appreciation for parades after going to the Fremont Solstice Parade in Seattle and seeing the naked bicycling. We are a diverse bunch of people, and we can be crazy and weird, but I believe in public space and I believe in celebrating anything (even naked bicycling) together.

5. Road Trips- Just drive between any two states in the USA, and you will be happy you live here.  Kitschy roadside attractions, scenic splendor, and convenience stores (I mean, can you really top Sheetz?) are all pretty awesome. 

4. That we are so different from each other, and that is good- I love having classes of kids of so many races and cultural backgrounds. Difference is one of our greatest strengths as a country, and I love living in a place where that difference is mostly accepted. We can all do better with this, but the first step is just appreciating how freaking cool it is that people in Hawaii may have very little in common with people from Nebraska culturally but that just means they have things to give/teach each other. I know this is naive and idealistic, but I believe it anyway, because I have seen it at work.

Update- Wow, this one makes me feel sad, because I do feel like we are losing this as a country, allowing fear and xenophobia keep us from appreciating difference. I hate to see people, especially my family and friends at times, see someone's difference as a potential threat. I still believe in this for our country, and I still see it on an interpersonal level everyday, but we need to fight for mutual understanding on a larger scale. The bright side is for every attempt to make us more afraid, someone else makes a push for greater understanding. Let's not lose this. 

3. Public Libraries and Museums- Feeling bad about the country? Go to a public library. These institutions (and free museum systems like the Smithsonian) will make you feel better, because we prioritize learning enough to make it available to everybody. Plus, they are almost always staffed by cute old people, who just make everything better. If you were thinking to yourself a few minutes ago "Self, I should really volunteer more often" I would try helping out your local branch.

2. The incredible amount of progress that has been made on gay marriage- Doesn't it do your heart good when you read yet another state has changed its stance on gay marriage? I know this is a boil that is a long time coming, but the turn around of public opinion and the adoption of these rights have been very inspiring. I am hopeful this momentum just keeps going, so I can raise my kids in a country where this systematic discrimination is a part of the past. Marry on!

And now- This battle has been won, and I am so glad, but I don't think we should just pat our back and move on, since recent events prove that there is violent hatred that still exists for this community and for transpeople. There is a lot of work left to do here, but I still feel encouraged that attitudes shifted so quickly, and it gives me hope for other areas (like environmental stewardship!).

1. Basically anything that has to do with The Boston Marathon- Nothing better encapsulates the greatest parts of us as Americans that at the Boston bombing, people turned and ran toward the bomb to help rather than turning away to ensure their own safety. The city's long term response to a truly awful moment are so inspiring, and seeing the images from the race this year will put nearly anyone in tears. I feel the same way when you read about the many people who go to help rebuild New Orleans or who have turned September 11th into a day of service. You have to feel good about living in a country where such dark moments consistently bring out the goodness in its people. I believe we are a country of really generous, kind, and courageous people. That's what I like to think about on the 4th of July as the fireworks go off- the light that chases out darkness. 

And now- We still have amazing helpers everywhere in this country. I was so inspired to see the pictures of people in Orlando lined up around the block to give blood to help the shooting victims. Or the story about Chick Fil A bringing food on a Sunday, complicating their image as gay-bashing. I think what it shows is that when we see someone needs help, Americans do something. Our desire to help trumps a lot of the other feelings swirling around right now, and I am so proud of that. 

Yay America! I hope there are light things going on in your life as our summer has started on such a dark foot.

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