I was thinking the other day about America and what it means to me. I was doing this in light of the many criticisms thrown at it by folk who do not think much about it; and also by the stunning display of ignorance shown by those who think it is about waving the American flag as we saw on January 6, 2021, when dolts carrying that flag were attempting to destroy what the flag stood for. I’ve been saddened by the idea that the American flag is used as a symbol of division especially when I think of the Marines and Navy Corpsman who planted it on top of Mount Surabaci on Iwo Jima.
I thought of America watching the travel show on PBS put on by Rick Steves who was in Ethiopia. He talked about starving folk who live there and their need for the simplest of things. He pointed to several kinds of aid that were going in there. In one instance it was building a well in a small town so the folk would have access to water without traveling miles for it. Something we take for granted without a second thought the Ethiopians find the need to treasure every drop when it is available. The well was built by an American NGO – drugs were provided by another American NGO – other items of aid were given by the American government.
This is the America that I know. This is the America that tries to alleviate the sufferings of others in less fortunate countries. This is the America that is not about isolating itself behind walls in the idea of America First but in reaching out to others sharing our beneficences of which we have many. This is the America I love.
The America that has not for over 100 years sought to gain additional territory and worked despite forces of evil within our borders to live up to the words that began our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” The America where we accept that we are only entitled to pursue happiness and are not guaranteed to attain it.
It is an America which started off its most important document, the Constitution, with these words, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, . . . ” The America that recognized that without peace at home we would not be able to pass along what we have to our children and grandchildren.
It is an America that has fought in several wars and sacrificed the lives of our young men and women in the last 100 years not for the purpose of gaining territory but for the idea that others should not live under tyrants if we can help them be free. It is the America that is so unlike China which has seized other countries, areas, and ethnic groups, the latter by imprisonment and reeducation seeking to destroy their religious beliefs; or like the Soviet Union and its Captive States or Russia with its invasion of other countries and intimidation of others.
Why is it these countries seek to expand and subjugate other people? Why aren’t their leaders satisfied with what they have without taking from others? They are not threatened but they threaten others.
America is not perfect. It has made mistakes. At times it seems to have lost the way. The American ship can be righted if we look back at our founding documents and understand we must continue the pursuit and bring tranquility back to our shores by recognizing all we have; all the good we have done, and all the good we can do in the future.
A young Jewish woman who died in her thirties expressed it best. She told us of “a mighty woman with a torch” who lifted up her “lamp beside the golden door”. She represented America as a light to the world and as a welcoming light in a house after a long dark journey. It’s time to find the America that we love, make her healthy, and spread the good news to the world once again.