I received a friendship survey in an e-mail a few months ago. Recipients were asked to give information on everything from favorite ice cream to their middle name. The point was to get to know people you e-mail on a regular basis. I have never met ninety-five percent of the people I e-mail, yet we “talk” to one another as deeply as friends might face to face.
One of the questions was: “What is your favorite holiday?” Nearly everyone answered Christmas. I love Christmas too, but found it interesting that I was the only one who stated that her favorite holiday was the fourth of July. I felt I needed to explain, and so, in parenthesis I wrote: “What can I say? I love my country.”
Actually, I adore my country. My strong sense of patriotism was fortified early in my life. My father was a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army. Bedtime was twenty-one hundred hours (nine p.m.) every night. Officers routinely dropped by our house, well-mannered, freshly groomed men and women that instilled pride in us. Our lives were regulated by a duty roster, and our beds inspected with a standard “bounce a quarter off the sheets” test. If it didn’t bounce, it wasn’t made properly—and we had to do it all over again.
Our lives, however, were far from rigid. My father loved life. He laughed often. He turned holidays into extra special occasions, and ordinary days into adventures. What was there to celebrate? Freedom!
My father was born on July 4, 1924. From the moment he took his first breath, he had two strikes against him: he was poor and he was black. I never knew he suffered. Sometime in his difficult life he realized that he’d been given two marvelous gifts that superseded anything else.
First, he lived in a free country. Second, he’d been born at a time when he could live not as a slave but a free man. He taught his five children to judge character above color, respect government as one does God, and to rejoice in freedoms people of color did not have a century ago.
It’s easy to criticize. Sure, I get upset about dishonest politicians, social injustice and the like. But this lady isn’t so quick to condemn her country. I simply think of the alternative.
I could live in a police state. I could have been born under communism, oppression, poverty, war, and disease. The government could scrutinize my every action. I could be arrested for a minor infraction, and never have the option of fair and impartial counsel (in a communist country, the concept would be laughable). One of my children could be caned for a minor crime. I could be imprisoned for utilizing freedom of speech.
Consider this; in America prisoners can watch cable television, join book clubs, receive packages, and engage in bodybuilding. It’s not utopia in prison, but in another country an incarcerated person most likely would serve time surrounded by filth, drink dirty water, and contend with no proper toilets, rampant disease and rats.
The United States isn’t a perfect country. Two hundred years ago we condoned slavery. One hundred years ago, we refused to allow women to vote. Fifty years ago we had segregated schools.
I love America because people are free to work at making life increasingly better. Because of the victories gained with civil rights, I don’t have to drink from a “colored only” water fountain. The need for cultural and religious freedom will never die. In each generation, there will be people who fight for good in the midst of bad.
I’m not African-American. I’m not from Africa. I’m from Kansas. I had my father for fourteen very short years before his death thirty years ago. His legacy to me and everyone who knew him was to take pride in being an American citizen and give honor to our country not just on the fourth of July, but every single day of our lives.
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Hi Donna. I'm not sure if you received a message I sent through your website, but we would really love to use your article for FaithWriters Magazine for our July Issue. It is absolutely perfect for our 'Tis the Season department. Would you be able to contact me - either 'yay' or 'nay" - and let me know? You can do that either by sending me a Private Message, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org This on-line magazine is just another good way to showcase your work, and we always include a bio note with every article used. Look forward to hearing from you. Deb (Editor-in-Chief, FaithWriters' Magazine)
Donna -- Wow! How very timely and direct this story is about America. Yes we are free becasue of those who chose to stand up to the wrongs of the world. I too am not African America, but an American living in Seattle, Washington. Thany you Lewis and Clark.
Donna, I truly enjoyed this article. I especially agree with not being an African-American we have this "title" and we as a people know very little about Africa. We are Americans and I too am very proud to be an American from New Jersey. Thank you