Americans have a tendency to get really down on America. They talk about fleeing to Canada to escape the injustices and poverty and high unemployment rates and medical care expenses and differing political ideologies.

I think this is an amazing country. It isn’t perfect. It is far from perfect. But it is pretty good.

I sat in a cafe in Djibouti and watched Obama’s inaugural speech in January 2009. Former Presidents Bush and Clinton were there, as were politicians of various political parties. They were cordial, pleasant, even smiling. No one shouted at each other. No one shot at each other. There was this incredible, peaceful, transfer of power.

Don’t take this for granted.

At the playground near our house I can see, simultaneously, college girls sunbathing in bikinis and Somali women chatting in hijabs while Asian children scramble around the playground and no one is staring at me, no one is throwing rocks at me. The park is free. And green. And clean. I can wear shorts or do pull-ups on the monkey bars or scramble through tunnels chasing Lucy and still, no one is staring at me.

Don’t take this for granted.

green

My electricity is never cut, my garbage is always removed, my water is the temperature I want it to be. The grocery store is stocked and low-priced. The gasoline is especially low-priced. I can buy pork or drink wine. Or not. I can wear goofy clothes and kiss my husband outside if I want.

kissing

Don’t take this for granted.

I can vote based on my own convictions and worship in the church/temple/mosque/synagogue of my choice without feeling afraid, intimidated, or arrogant (*update: except in southern black churches in 2015 – what is going one, America?). There are quality doctors and hospitals that are clean and open.

Don’t take this for granted.

It has taken the United States of America 234 years to achieve this kind of peace and freedom and inclusion and opportunity. Expecting Iraq or Somalia or Afghanistan to come to terms with an American-enforced ‘democracy’ in mere decades is naive. And quite probably erroneous. Nations need to develop and establish their own flavor of governance. But that is for another post.

July Fourth is something to celebrate. Not because the United States is the ‘best’ nation on earth or because it is perfect or has reached some kind of ‘ideal.’ Not boastfully or ignorantly. But because it is ours, it is free, it is peaceful. It has been for a long time. I have no idea what the next 234 years will hold. And no, of course America isn’t the only country in which you can do these things.

But I’m an American and I appreciate the good things this country has to offer, even while I am free, no especially while I am free, to point out its weaknesses.

How did you celebrate July Fourth?