By Troy Rampy, Editor, The Wellness Blog™
“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” ~Barbara Jordan, U.S. House of Representatives
We Americans just celebrated our 235th birthday as a nation. Now I’m not terribly nationalistic. And I have several ongoing issues concerning my homeland and what happens here. But you know what? That many years of relative freedom is something of an accomplishment!
If you read or watch the mainstream news (I hope you don’t), you’re all too aware of the many things that are currently troubling us Americans. Ours is not a perfect government, or congress (!), and we seem to be at odds with one another now more than at any other period since perhaps the Civil War. So it seems to me like this might be a good time to recount some of what’s right with us, and worth celebrating.
I’ve come up with 10 things that I think are fairly outstanding about this country of ours. I have to admit that I’ve “borrowed” some of these from the fine folks at GoodNewsNetwork.org who originally came up with a similar list, along with their readers. I kept some of their ideas, deleted or tweaked others, and then added some of my own. Here’s my version:
1. Our Founding Fathers. Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams, Madison and several others were seminal thinkers of The Enlightenment. They captured the spirit, exuberance and verve of that time and transformed it into a movement and a force that has stood the test of time. What they thought, said, did, and wrote has inspired and challenged us, as well as billions of others, for these past 235 years. The shot heard round the world truly changed everything! Huzzah for them.
2. Our Natural Beauty. From sea to shining sea, this land is knock-down gorgeous. We derive much our well-deserved sense of wonder, and yes pride, from our mountain ranges, deserts, forests, glaciers, seashores, beaches, woodlands, canyons, volcanoes, rivers, streams, lakes, bayous, wetlands, valleys, prairies, farmlands, ranches, orchards, and many other wonders of nature. Thank you to The Nature Conservancy (established 1951) and the literally thousands of other organizations, and individuals, who work tirelessly to help preserve our precious, and fragile, natural treasures.
3. Our Spirit of Innovation. OMG! As a people, do we know how to invent, innovate, and think outside the box, or what? From the light bulb, telephone, and personal computer, to today’s search engines and social networks, we have led the world in many of the innovations that have literally shaped much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Along with that are some world-class companies and organizations that have developed progressive business models which treat their employees and the environment just as good as they treat their customers and their bottom-line.
4. Our Social Consciousness. Okay, there’s the Environmental, Civil Rights, Women’s, Gay and Lesbian movements. There are our visionary leaders like Lincoln, King, FDR, and JFK and our transformative writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Maslow, Rogers, Zinn, Wilber, and others. There’s Non-Violent Communication, 12-Step programs, and of course, it begins with our right to freedom of speech. I think it’s all about our self-reflexivity, our ability to step back and observe ourselves somewhat objectively. Then it comes down to the fact that we’re willing, and able, to do something about it.
5. Our Music. We got Ragtime! We got Dixieland! We got jazz! We got Native American! We got Bluegrass! We got Country! We got Gospel! We got Big Band Swing! We got Hawaiian! We got R & B! We got Rock ‘n’ Roll! We got Hip Hop! We got Copland, Gershwin, Porter, and Glass. We got Presley, Dylan, Simon, and Springsteen. Oh, so many more! And we’ve got the whole world tapping their toes with us.
6. Our Entertainment. The American film and television industries have changed the way we see, and relate to, the world around us. Our sports, from football, baseball, and basketball, to Ultimate Frisbee and Hula Hoops have captured our imagination, and gotten us up off the couch. Our literature, from Whitman, Dickinson, and Twain, to Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and Hemingway, to Vonnegut, Irving, and Walker, has greatly enriched our lives. Our theater, from O’Neill, Williams, Miller, and Wilson, to Bernstein, Sondheim, Rogers, and Hammerstein has been a delight! So has the choreography of Balanchine, Taylor, Fosse, Graham, Robbins, and Tharp. And my personal favorite, I’m sorry: Disneyland.
7. Our Cities. One of the hallmarks in the evolution of civilization and contemporary culture is the development of great cities. And it’s no secret. We have some of the best: San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and, yes, Los Angeles. We’ve also got Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, Austin, Washington D.C., as well as so many more. And little charmers like Boulder, Ashland, and, yep, Grass Valley and Nevada City!
8. Our Sense of Style, Art, and Design. Okay, okay, yes there’s Givenchy and Gucci, but there’s also Klein, Lauren, Blass … and, of course, blue jeans! There’s the Model T, WWII Jeep, Mustang, and the DeLorian. In architecture there’s Wright, Kahn, and Gehry. In the visual arts there’s Pollack, Benton, Hopper, Wyeth, and O’Keefe. There’s also Adams, Leibovitz, and Avedon in photography. And several more!
9. Our Food, Wine & Beer. Right, I know all about the French, Italians, and Germans. But here’s what I’m talkin’ about: New England cuisine including indigenous “clambake” shellfish and many of our traditional Thanksgiving Day foods; New York pizza; Southern cuisine and “soul food”; Cajun cooking; Midwest barbecue and Chicago-style hot dogs; Tex-Mex and Southwest cooking; upscale California cuisine; traditional Hawaiian food. And while we’re at it let’s not forget Julia Child, Alice Waters, John Ash, and Bobby Flay. I’m also talking about American varietal wines, and especially California’s world-class vintages like those that bested the French at the infamous “Paris Tasting” of 1976. In terms of American beer, please be clear I am NOT talking about the tasteless, mass-market swill touted in football commercials, but rather the fine, handcrafted brews coming out of many of our micro-breweries.
10. Our People, Ourselves. Last, but certainly not least, well worth celebrating are the fine people of America … us! As a people, we have been described as individualistic, fearless in believing that anything is possible, informal, and realistic. We also exhibit an uncommon degree of concern and empathy for others, particularly globally. We are nothing if not diverse. It has been suggested that our pluralism might be better described as a salad bowl rather than a melting pot. And no, it doesn’t always go smoothly. And yes, there is much healing that needs to occur in respect to many aspects of our diversity. But we still manage to get a lot of it right a lot of the time. Huzzah for us as well!
So America, Happy Birthday! May we continue to aspire toward becoming the nation, and the people, we’ve believed ourselves to be all along.