(View from the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway that hugs mountainsides, running from North Carolina to northern Virginia..Here, one can see the famed “purple mountain majesty” of the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo by CKMellor.)
As a child, I stood in classrooms and recited “I pledge ‘legiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the ‘public’ for which it stands, one nation…under God…’invisible’…”
Sometimes our teacher led us in “America the Beautiful” whose most compelling verse (to me) was ‘Purple mountain majesty above the fruited plain’…” ‘Purple mountains’ seemed a delicious concept, since purple was my favorite color. I got to choose it once a week (if another child hadn’t already done so) from the stack of colored construction paper our teacher offered us students for our art lesson.
At that young age, that was the extent of my appreciation of country.
As I progressed in school, I learned about the first colonists in Jamestown and the American Revolution, with our victory over a mother country whose far-reaching power earned it the slogan: “The sun never set on the British Empire.” I read, too, about our young nation’s struggle to institute child labor laws, workers’ and civil rights, and women’s suffrage.
Yes, we had flaws………. but forces within worked to right those wrongs.
In later years, I learned how America entered two World Wars, as well as Korea. Then, there were the less glorious combat arenas of Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite those, our nation carved a considerable niche for ourselves in the world as leader in manufacturing, science, medicine, and technology.
At the same time, we swelled to massive proportions. Currently, “sea to shining sea” translates to 305,689,000 diverse people occupying the approximate 3000 miles from Atlantic to Pacific, a startling number when one considers the far-flung United Kingdom has 61,113,205 people, at recent count.
Our population is comprised of 159 separate ethnic groups (hardly the Italo-Irish-Germanic groups of ‘yore), with 310 religious groups, speaking 250 different tongues (and I’m not referring to religious sects). There are dialect versions of those, as well.
Our explosive growth may well explain our growing pains; assimilating all these disparate groups in a cohesive whole is daunting, by anyone’s account. But we try…………Oh, boy, do we try.
But others have little patience. They sing America’s swan song and predict her obsolescence. We’re daily deluged with rhetoric by political pundits and TV commentators who attack our President’s alleged passivity in waiting too long to lead (it’s always easy to Monday-morning-quarterback). They ignore his considerable accomplishments.
These same hype our dwindling international power and point to the latest failed trade policies as indicative of a diminution of our influence to get done what we wish. They predict America’s demise, while offering few constructive alternatives to policies they say “fail.” They merely rail against others’ attempts at solutions (negativity is easier, still).
But here’s what I know: Most of us do not have to forage for food, nor do we seek protection against sniping or strafing from enemy aircraft above. We don’t tip-toe about, either, fearing an errant landmine blowing us to smithereens. And we mostly don’t hear the pitiful wail of our children, starved, with bloated bellies…we are THAT fortunate.
Our weakest—the elderly, the sick, children, women, minorities—are not flagrantly abused or reduced to meaningless status, as they are in many lands where no one’s concerned with ‘their rights’.
Oh, I’m not polyanna or occupying some pink cloud in my brain that tells me “everything’s lovely.” I know we have BIG problems: escalating population without the means to support; municipalities that groan under the need to provide ever–costlier services; dwindling standard in living and health care conditions; wars that have cost way too much. We need tighten our collective belts, demand change from our legislators, give up earmarks, cut massive debt.
In this, we must ALL sacrifice and work together. The good news is: Our country has ever faced daunting hurdles and has always persevered in conquering them. That is the American spirit.
On this Thanksgiving, I know one thing for certain: I’ll not be one of those harping on “What’s wrong with America?” for I’m stunned every day with how lucky I am to be an American. No, I won’t complain and find fault; instead, I’ll be thanking God for my amazing good fortune.
Biddy wishes a “Happy Thanksgiving” to all…