What is America?
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
At the age of 20 I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I didn't want to enlist, but at that point in my life, my options were incredibly limited as to how to proceed in an orderly fashion. What began as something I begrudgingly agreed to, inevitably became one of the smartest decisions I ever made. During this experience, I met and got to know people from all walks of life that came from every corner of the United States. Our backgrounds, beliefs, and skin colors were incredibly different, but there was a common understanding that we were all in this together. Whether it was cleaning a bathroom, loading a weapon, or navigating your way through life in a new state that was far away from your family; the concept that finished off every task was work together to accomplish a goal.
While my enlistment only lasted 5 years, life lessons were learned that I'll never forget. In both my humble and professional opinion, I think America would be a much better place if everyone had to serve at least two years in the military. There's something incredibly unique about an experience that cuts through all the BS in life and simply demands that you accomplish basic tasks with a group of individuals you've never met before. And if you don't accomplish said task, well then, the reality is somebody might actually die. Most people in America will never have to face this experience, and that's a shame. Because in the end, if executed properly, this is a far more beneficial lesson than most will ever realize.
If you believe what a large part of the news and social media is currently suggesting, America is a horrible place to live. Absolutely horrible. We are evil, it's us against them, and everything needs to crumble so we can start over. No one is right or wrong, we're all just misunderstood, and everything that has happened so far in this country is all your fault! Whoever you are, you're in a lot of trouble!
There are things that America currently is not. I'll give you 5.
United (which is funny because that's in our title)
If you were somehow able to fix numbers 3 and 5, it would go a long way to shaping 2 and 4. Number 1 is not an achievable reality, so let's dismiss that. There are very deep and historically important questions as to why numbers 3 and 5 currently do not exist in America. But I can easily take a look at the last 60 years and tell you where it started to go south.
These are things that America currently is. I'll give you 5 of these too.
I would like to talk about all these in detail, but I think we can all sit with number 5 for a minute and agree on it. There are incredible conversations currently taking place about how to better understand each other and move forward as a nation. I would argue that most of these are being conducted by people who understand what America is, and not focused on what it isn't. Then there are conversations that I can't even believe we are participating in because of the sheer stupidity of the inaccuracies that birthed them.
Number 4 on the list above is the word Protected. There seems to be a thought swirling right now that people in America are not protected. Racism, Injustice, and Privilege are more powerful than they have ever been! We are completely unprotected from them and we must do everything we can to end such establishments! Did you believe this to be true?
America is not an idea any longer. It wasn't always pretty, fair, or universally just, but over the past 244 years we have become a reality.
You can't make it in America as a black man
You can't make it in America as a single unwed mother
You can't make it in America as a minority who wants to own a successful business
You can't make it in America after you've been in jail
You can't make it in America if you don't go to college
You can't make it in America if you're not white
These statements and hundreds more, have been proven false time and again. So what do we want to accomplish that we can't in this current America? I'm speaking in terms of the broad picture, not pockets of injustices with regards to geographical locations or establishments. What is it that you want America to become that is hasn't yet?
What is America?
For the most part, America is anything you can dream it to be. But if that dream involves tearing others down so you can build yourself up and not moving forward as a people; if it calls for revenge, hate, and trying to spin a narrative of division where it doesn't actually exist...there's a word for that. Un-American. America is not New York, it's not Los Angeles, and it's not Atlanta. It's not Texas, Alabama, or Minnesota. America is a nation of people that number over 330 million. Most of us are pretty cool if you take the time to get to know us. Some of us are not and need to be properly dealt with. We are admittedly egocentric and that has been both a blessing and a curse. To deny that it was that egocentricity that pushed us to the forefront of the world in terms of power, creativity, and technology in such a short time, would be a fallacy. We don't hold two of these titles anymore, and that's unfortunate.
Today is the 4th of July. If you don't know why that's important, you might want to look it up. As misguided as we have been as a nation sometimes, the one thing we all have in common is that we currently exist. This space we exist in has collectively given the world more to marvel at in the last 100 years than any other nation on the planet. That is something to be extremely proud of. If you don't think so, it might be time to pack that suitcase, hop on a plane, train or ship, and travel the world. When you find the country that offers more than America does; if they'll let you live there, what's stopping you?
"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." In a nutshell, that is the reality of America. This is not a quote you should gloss over and dismiss. You need to sit with it, digest it, and really think about what it means.
Because if that's not actually true, maybe we all need to get our suitcase ready. Or maybe, let's sit down and have an honest conversation about why we think it isn't, and what it will take to truly get us there. America is and hopefully, God willing, always be the land of opportunity. We are a nation of misfits, immigrants, natives, wealthy, poor, intellectuals, and opportunists.
No matter how beautiful or messy it becomes, the opportunity to do the right thing is never out of our grasp. As a nation, our duty is to always strive to be better. Agreeing and acting upon what that is, is the only reason we get to call ourselves great.
Happy Birthday, America!