Saturday, October 09, 2004


The Fourth Of July Is Nine Months Away

So what the heck is this post all about? Well, we’re getting closer to the election, and I wanted to talk a bit about why I love America.

First, I’d like to say that world travel is very important for anyone who lives in America. Full disclosure demands that I admit I’ve only been to Mexico. And even in Mexico, I haven’t traveled extensively. I’ve been to a few coastal cities and towns, and a couple of towns more in the interior. Many of you have been to Mexico, and many others of you have reasonable access to Canada. And by many, I mean the hypothetical millions out there as well as the seven or eight who will actually read this.

The reason travel is so important is because living in the forest of America can make it difficult to see the trees of the world as a whole, if you get my drift. We live in a wonderful country. We are so blessed to be here. When I think about what my life might have been like if I had lived in some other country, it makes me want to kill myself. Ok, maybe it’s not that bad.

But I’m not just talking about third world countries. Even places like England or Australia, and I would love to visit both of them, don’t strike me as places I’d want to live. They just make me think about all the things in America I’d miss. Maybe we could take a look at a few.

Television. I’ve watched some BBC. I’m sure everyone has some favorites. Monty Python. Benny Hill. Numerous Trading Places style home makeover shows. Joking Apart. Naked Chef. Doctor Who. I’ve heard that many of the shows are six or twelve episode story arcs and that’s it. It’s just a style of producing over there. But then other shows seem to have gone on forever. I’m no expert, but I definitely know I’m not in favor of the government forcing me to pay for television. I mean, what would American TV be like if it was all PBS? PBS makes some good shows, but a little more creative variety is nice.

Voting. Every four years I get to vote for president. Every two years there are congressional and senate races, along with a host of state and local government races and issues up for vote. I’m no expert on voting practices in other countries, but I frequently seem to hear about this or that party in some country losing hold on a coalition government and needing new elections. Every four years is good enough for me. It’s dependable. Our orderly transition of power is something to be envied. The two party system is also very valuable. Six or seven parties holding ten or fifteen or twenty percent of congressional seats does not work for me. Two parties are enough to cover the issues. And trust me, even within the two parties, there is plenty of differences in opinion to allow various combinations of bipartisanship. Leading up to this election, I will grant you that we have become increasingly polarized. However, I still have faith in the democrats to regain a modicum of reality. We may need another twenty years, but I think we’ll get there. Unfortunately, it may take the death of everyone old enough to remember Vietnam to make it happen.

Health care when I need it, not when the government says it’s my turn to have it. I cringe every time I hear about people denied treatment because government health care has to be rationed. And these are countries we might consider our (perhaps lesser) peers. You’ve heard that saying that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I believe the same is true of our health care system. Do we have problems? Yes. Could it be better? Also yes. But county hospitals don’t bitch about covering uninsured patients for free because they don’t let them in. They bitch because they do have to let them in. Visiting County General may not be a trip to the sort of medicalized Ritz-Carlton you might find at a high end private hospital, but it is a hospital that gives medical care.

Infrastructure. You have to make an effort in America to find a dirt road. In other countries, the trick can be finding a paved road. Go visit a national park. After enjoying the beauty of the location, take a moment to feel grateful to live in a nation that is able to support these sorts of “frivolous” places. Other nations worry about feeding everyone or putting down armed rebellion; our government worries about maintaining vacation spots for our citizens.

Food. This is a biggie. Here’s one of the most impressive things about America to foreigners who visit here or come to live here: no matter where you live, you have access to almost any type of food, no matter what time of year it is. And you don’t have to go to special government stores for the rich or powerful. I happened to visit a grocery type store or two (small ones) in Mexico, and I was surprised to find empty shelves and lousy produce. I’ve been spoiled in America. Visit an American grocery store in December, and you’ll find summer crops from all over the world. Buy a basket of hothouse tomatoes. We are fortunate to live in a land of plenty.

LT (who has since been called up to serve our nation) and I went to a conference with a few other people from our office, and we had a shocking moment. One of the activies was a thought exercise about people who come to America. One lady there had a problem with the exercise because it implied or perhaps I should say it was founded on the notion that people want to come here. She seemed to feel that this was a faulty premise because of the assumption that other people would like to live in America. I don’t want to overstate her case, but she believed that other people in other countries don’t like America and wouldn’t want to come here. I think I know who she’ll be voting for. Please take a moment and think rationally. Do you honestly believe that America is so sucky that nobody wants to come here? Yeah, tell that to illegal aliens risking their lives crossing our southern deserts. And while I hear lots of complaints about outsourcing jobs, I sure don’t hear many stories about people outsourcing their entire lives to another country. Do you know anyone who was born here and decided to move there? Not just for work, or temporarily. I mean people who said America wasn’t for them, and they want to spend the rest of their lives in England or Sweden or Nigeria or wherever? And unless your life is more insulated than the center of a packed to the rafters ice chest warehouse, I’ll bet you do know people who came to America from another country.

I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life outside America. Even though I like Arnold, and even though if the Constitution is changed to allow him to run for president I think he would win, I would still prefer that this change not take place. Being born and raised somewhere is a powerful thing. Maybe I’m holding on to tradition for tradition’s sake, but sometimes you feel a thing in your gut, and this is one of those things for me.

I love this country, warts and all. I’m fortunate to be here. I’m grateful. You should be too.
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