The classic American road trip is a great experience for a lot of good reasons. More than the core of great novels and movies, it’s usually a journey of inner discovering and bonding and so much else all at once. At the core, however, is one undeniable lesson – this is a truly vast and amazing nation.
The best measure of how stuck in a rut this nation have become is how much that obvious fact has been forgotten. I promise you that the United States is bigger than you or I can ever possibly imagine. But to listen to today’s media or politics of any kind you’d swear that this nation is weak, fragile, and small.
We need a road trip. Short of that, let’s take one in our minds.
This piece from a year ago is still valid.
A lot of people are upset about the direction of the nation. Nearly a two to one ration finds that the nation is on the wrong track, according to a Rasmussen poll. That fits with the ongoing controversies sweeping our mindscapes involving protests of various kinds.
A lack of faith in our government should be one thing which unites us. It’s something of an American tradition, after all. Some think it’s involved in vast conspiracies. Some want to stockpile arms against it. Some think it’s just plain incompetent. Some think our history is a complete lie.
No one, anywhere, thinks that government is going to solve all of our problems. No one trusts it completely. No one thinks our taxation system is completely fair. No one thinks that the system always produces justice.
Yet protests about our system or our government are the surest way to spark a highly emotional shouting match that transcends any ability to get anything done. And there may be a good reason.
I have run this story for Independence Day many times. I feel that this year the message is even more important.
The misunderstandings and suspicions melted away, as they always do, after a few litres of liquid bread that the Germans call “Bier”. Harald was very honest in his German way, a kind of honesty that was spelled out in long, silent pauses as much as words. “With all of these different people and cultures, what is it that makes you Americans?”
I swallowed my beer to give me time, and the perfect answer came to me:
“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.”
Thanksgiving is a truly great American holiday. It is a time when people from all over the world blend their traditions into one religious holiday celebrated by Christians, Jews, Moslems, and every other faith alike. To give thanks is universal, and what better way to celebrate deliverance to a land that to many is indeed the Promised Land.
But why is it in November? The very first day of Thanksgiving was held right after the harvest, on a day very similar to the Canadian Thanksgiving on October 12th. Why is it on a Thursday? The answer is that the nation itself was delivered from the horrors of war and recognized by the Treaty of Paris, owing a bit of time for the time it takes to cross the Atlantic and bring the joyous news. It was indeed a time to be thankful – but the story has the Hand of Providence all over it.
The tour guide at Independence Hall knew how to warm up the crowd. “What states have you come from to visit us here today?” “Missouri!” “New York!” “Minnesota!” We called out, mentally hi-fiving each other as we proudly called our names. Then, she shifted gears. “Who is here from another nation?” “Japan.” “Britain.” “Russia.” She stepped up to the last man and practically begged him for more. “What brought you here today?” Slowly, in halting English, the man from Russia proudly and carefully produced his words. “This is the birthplace of Freedom. This is where Freedom began.”
The previously bubbly Americans were silent and respectful the whole tour. This wasn’t just our hallowed hall, this was our gift. This was what made us a truly great nation.
On this Independence Day the birthplace of freedom stands divided as it has not been for a long time. We are at each other’s throats, fighting and scrapping for every small victory. No tour guide could shut us up and make us respectful – this is personal. What got us to this point?
We have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten our great gift. We have forsaken our soul.