Happy Birthday, America!

Today is the United States of America’s 242nd birthday. Much is not well on this occasion, but let’s take a moment on this day in particular to celebrate much that deserves our attention and offers us some reassurance.

For the first time since they began asking the question, a major poll found that there is not much of a majority of Americans that are proud to be Americans. Even among those who remain proud, a majority is “not proud of America as it stands today.”

Still, there is much to celebrate on this day. This is a democracy well into its third century, our Constitution the longest running such document in the world. There are days of late in which one wonders if that record will continue, but it still stands, and this is not the first time we wondered if it would hold.

Everyone taking the oath of office swears allegiance to and protection of the Constitution – not the president, not even the country, but the Constitution that makes us the country we strive to be.

  • I remain marveled at how many Go Fund Metype initiatives I see all over the country, with people responding quickly and generously to help others, often “the least among us.”
  • Every day thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen, and first responders leap into the flames of combat and disaster to protect the rest of us from unimaginable horrors. They do so with little compensation and with real risks. Their families are equally remarkable in their steadfastness and courage.
  • In a time wherein we seem eager to withdraw into our tribes, I see examples all the time of people going out of their way, often at some cost or risk, to help another, often a stranger.
  • Congregations and community groups that never imagined doing so are becoming sanctuaries for undocumented aliens. In the face of brutal and inhuman actions, people feel called by their conscience, and they are answering the call.
  • An unprecedented number of women, scientists, educators, and veterans are running for office throughout the country, at all levels of office. Many are young – some are seasoned. They seem, to a person, fired by commitment, not just to defeat someone, but to make things better for the people. Time may prove me wrong, but this has potential to be a wave unlike anything we have seen since the post-Watergate era.
  • Many old-line evangelicals have twisted their movement beyond recognition to back policies and politicians unworthy of support. Perhaps the rest of us should thank them. Not only has this diminished the standing of their movement beyond measure, it has also shown many young evangelicals how bankrupt that movement is. The next generation is looking for new leadership and may form new movements that are more interested in principles than political alignments.
  • In spite of all the issues before us, there is actually no shortage of patriotism, but more than ever, it comes in two forms. The traditional “I love America” patriotism is surely in evidence. But so, too, is an equally dedicated cohort that loves America’s promise, that finds its expression of patriotism in calling us to live up to our promise as the country founded on an idea. I am happy to count friends among both of these groups of patriots.

So, happy birthday, America. Time to get to work on year 243 – there is work to do.

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Bill Clontz

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9 replies to Happy Birthday, America!

  1. Your points are well taken. The 4th of July to me is like Christmas in that we are peaceful for at least one day and celebrate all that is good. Today also reminds me of the comedian speaking about someone I won’t name whom has been a leader and helped bring about much needed progressive changes for his ethnic group, but has been found guilty of crimes against some of his ethnic group. To paraphrase the comedian, “He has done great things, but he has been terribly bad.” Many things and people are a mixture of good and bad. Hopefully the good always outweighs the bad. I have comments to share on future blog posts of your regarding immigration. Thank you for your forum to learn from and participate in.

    • A thoughtful comment, Vanessa. Thank you for sharing it. I agree, you can support or love something and still acknowledge its shortfalls. Otherwise, its just infatuation, isn’t it? Happy 4th to you.

  2. I have always loved my country, but, like anything else that means so much, there are times when circumstances require a serious examination of some not-so-nice things that my country does. Rather than turn my back, I am inclined to speak up with some advice to my country with a loving and accepting voice: please, my precious country, think before you act and/or speak because the rest of the world regards you as a model for what is fair and equitable–do not embarrass yourself!!

  3. I have always loved and respected my country. However, there are times when unpleasant circumstances occur, and like a young child, my country must be reminded kindly: remember who you are in this big wide world, all eyes and ears are watching and listening to what you are doing and saying. Perhaps, this sounds too motherly—but I have a strong motherly instinct!!

  4. Thank you for showing how to celebrate being American, while admitting we are still a work-in-progress. Thank you also for the reminder that the oath of office is a pledge to protect the Constitution. One of the Constitutions first aims is to “establish Justice.” And to be just, we need enough kindness and compassion to listen to each other. Anything we can do to come together and do that is a step in the right direction, in my view.

    • Thank you for your feedback, Joanne. Yes indeed, I would think America will always be “a work in progress.” After all, the Founders did not proclaim a perfect union, but a desire to build a more perfect union. The work continues, one hopes.

  5. OK, Bill. In my role as Nitpicker-in-Chief, let me argue that July 4th is NOT the nation’s birthday; nor is July 2nd. The latter was the vote on independence; the former, just the PR announcement. Neither act created a single nation; at best, merely 13 independent states under a very loosey-goosey confederation, which was so unworkable that they had to create a single nation 11 years later to remedy its problems. And that mere declaration had no effect until Britain renounced its sovereign claims at the Treaty of Paris in 1783. No, the USA’s real birthday is June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the 9th state to ratify the US Constitution,giving legal status to the Constitution and the nation it created. Some argue it should be March 4, 1789, when the new Congress first convened; but that was more the birthday of the US “government,” not the USA as a nation. Let’s all tip our hats to NH for providing the critical vote on the first day of summer!!

    • Ha! Keith, no doubt this is an authentic comment- definitely you! Your historical analysis is accurate as usual. However, if you don’t like the designated birthday, you will have to take it up with Congress. And they are always so helpful and focused…🙄

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