Thursday, March 11, 2004

Why 4th of July?

I've been in a particularly patriotic mood lately, even to the point of buying a "God Bless America" cross-stitch kit (and starting it while I box up my other unfinished projects into half a dozen boxes). Part of that may have something to do with the fact that the next installment in the World's Cutest Kid Collector Series is due on July 4th this year. Part of it may be that four men from my church have just recently departed for Iraq; two of them are good friends of ours. I can't pin the patriotism on the fact that my hubby was in the military; that's been true for many years and I haven't been this patriotic the whole time. It's a few years late to pin it on September 11th. But I don't think it makes much of a difference why it is; the important part is that I'm finally coming to realize that yes, I really do love my country, warts and all.

I think one of the seminal events contributing to my increased patriotism was putting my Tiny Princess into a charter school. Our local charter school is in its second year. It doesn't have the largest computer lab or the latest curriculum. Some days it seems they barely have it together enough to actually teach school there. But what makes this school so much better than all the other more established public schools out there is that this school has a system that works. If there's something wrong with the charter school, there's a well-defined and easy mechanism for fixing it. Contrast that with the other public schools: if there's something wrong, and you want to fix it, you are not allowed to fix it, you are only allowed to live with it or perhaps persuade someone else to fix it, if you can find anyone willing to so much as wipe their nose without permission from On High. The charter school is like a car with readily available parts; the other public schools are like esoteric foreign cars whose parts have to be special-ordered from overseas at great expense and shipped on the world's slowest boat from Timbuktu. [Yes, I'm aware Timbuktu is not on the coast. That's why it takes so long.]

What all this has to do with America is this: No, we don't have a perfect country. There are many things wrong with our country. But we have the mechanisms in place to fix these things. We have a system that works. If there's something that Joe Citizen doesn't like about this country, he can actually do something about it. So all those who think our country should sit down and shut up because we aren't perfect either, can go take a long walk off a short pier, because our country works for everyone , not just our powerful elites. You can argue that it works better for powerful elites, but you can't argue that the average citizen has no power, because it's just not true. And anyone who thinks it is true that the average citizen has no power can go to Iran, North Korea, or any of those other places in the world and discover just what it really means for an average citizen to have no power. The only powerless citizens of this nation are the ones who throw up their hands and let government have their power.

So yes, it is "my country right or wrong". Because even when it's wrong, there's still a way to make it right.

I'm going to see if I can talk my church leaders into having a sunrise service on 4th of July like we used to when I was a kid. We may even be able to get the same guy to bring his cannon and fire it off, just like he did every 4th of July when I was younger. 4th of July is one of our most important holidays, in my opinion.

What makes 4th of July so important? It's our chance every year to remember exactly what it is that makes our country so special. It's our chance to honor not just those who served to make our country free (we already have two holidays for that), but those who live to make our country free. People like our brave reservists' wives, who are giving up their dream of a whole and intact family unit so that people like me can sleep safely at night. People who are advocates for all sorts of worthy causes. People who provide meals for the elderly or toys for abused children. In short, people who do their little bit so that all the meager voices added together make a triumphant chorus of greatness. 4th of July is the day that Boy Scouts make pancakes for everyone to raise funds for their important work, which is guiding the young men of America to leadership. 4th of July is the day that parents teach their children their heritage and the values of their immigrant forefathers. 4th of July is the day that we invoke the blessing of our God, whomever that may be and however we may worship Him, on our country and its endeavors.

That's why 4th of July.