Choosing to Love Our Country
I was struck by some simple words in a recent Daily Stoic podcast, hosted by Ryan Holiday. Guest Justin Baldoni shared that his parents’ marriage was rocky at times and that his father confided there were mornings when he had to wake up and choose to love his mother…when the easier choice would have been to not love her.
As we fast approach the 246th birthday of our great nation…a nation that, as a human construct, is nevertheless unavoidably condemned to tragic imperfection…I hereby choose to recognize all that is good with our country. I choose to seek out and celebrate all that gives hope…soaring hope…here within our borders. I choose to love the United States of America.
And I think it is wise that this be done…it is necessary that this be said…because there are so many institutions vested with an opposing, self-serving interest: to keep us unsatisfied and unhappy…hopeless…and unloved. So that the only positivity available is from those institutions themselves, whether it be media, technology, politics, government, special interest or spiritual. And the only positivity we can then give…that we want to give…is to those institutions in reciprocity. Not to our nation itself. Not to our communities. Not to our families. Not to ourselves.
We have problems. Serious problems. Intractable problems. Impossibly complicated problems. But they will not even be recognized cynical and untrusting. They will not be confronted downbeat and depressed. They will not be overcome splintered and divided.
There is so much to be grateful for. So many sources of hope. So much to love. These are my words against the dirge of depression. These are my thoughts opposing the shrieks of anger. Here is my inspiration in defiance of the culture of conflict being wrought upon us.
I have hope because we are communicating more than ever. Our bubbles of existence pierced. Our silos of cultural and political isolation toppling. We don’t understand…yet…because we are still thrashing under a tsunami of new cognition. But, as with every prior transformative chapter in American history, we will adapt. We will overcome.
I have hope because the notion of our nation’s true interconnectivity is just taking hold. Viruses have a fatal indifference to state borders. But merciless trade and business decisions emanating from select nodes of influence release their own billowing cloud of infectious toxins. We are all connected.
I have hope because those connections can help us understand like never before. With the courage to reach out, our hands in open greeting. Our eyes with curiosity, our words with respect, our hearts with compassion, we can step in the shoes of a prairieland rancher. We can don the gloves of a woodworker. We can hear about progress where we insisted it couldn’t be. We can uncover commonality where we assumed it shouldn’t be. We can create compromise where we believed it wouldn’t be.
I have hope because technology is our accelerant. An agnostic accelerant. We can make good move faster…become more contagious…spread like wildfire. Share good. Repost positivity. Comment encouragingly. Spread hope. Ignore bad. Suffocate negativity by denying it the eyeballs it so desperately needs. We generate the content. We consume the content. We are vested with the power to accelerate the spread of good. More than anything else. More than anyone else.
I have hope because there is unity. Talk within your bubble. Talk outside your bubble. Everyone is tired of the manipulation. The hyperbolic hysteria. The constant false, spurious state of siege. Everyone. We all agree this is undesirable. Untenable. Unjustified. Untrue.
I have hope because despite our recent challenges, everyday folks have believed. In their ability to persevere and adapt. In their capacity to open a new restaurant, new café, new shop, new nook. In their potential to succeed in a new career, in a new city. In their community’s resilience and future. In their nation’s fortitude. Despite the manipulators. Despite the naysayers.
I have hope because opportunity is more abundant than ever. Limitless legit videos to learn everything under the sun. Countless earnest new voices sharing wisdom, advice, insight, comfort. Boundless productivity from one laptop, one phone. Costless communication by voice, text or video. We simply need to believe in ourselves to believe in technology’s untapped potential.
I have hope because I’ve beheld the inimitable grace of our next generation confronting unspeakable tragedy. The uninhibited affection of classmates rallying to lift a troubled friend. The unprompted love and affection of a young child comforting the fraying nerves of a beleaguered parent.
I have hope because in America, more than any other place in the world, rhe past is not an anchor…not a ball and chain….dragging us to stagnation. Reinvention and rebirth are possible, indeed necessary. For regions…states…cities…companies…families…ourselves.
I have hope because America is 330 million people united by character, more than any other nation on earth. The uprooted (or descendants of the uprooted), voluntary or forcible, imbued with irrepressible self-reliance to strike out on our own. Obstinate optimism to dream big in the face of desperately slim odds. Indomitable spirit to persevere, thrive.
I have hope because America itself has been reinvented and reborn. Countless times. 1776 with our revolution. 1787 with our constitution. 1803 with our purchase of the Louisiana Territory. 1865 with our emancipation of the last enslaved peoples. 1900s with our reforms of labor and industry. 1920 with our extension of voting to women. 1930s with our Great Depression. 1940s with our participation in World War II. 1960s with our civil rights movement. 1990s with the end of the Cold War.
The 2020s pandemic of discord and Covid will lead to our next reconceptualization…reinvention…rebirth.
I have hope because, I have found in personal efforts to escape my bubble, Americans, again and again and again, defy categorization and reaffirm decency and complexity. A lawyer in Wyoming, coping with an elk herd. A teacher in Alaska, hunting and fishing with native locals. A wine lover in New York, building culinary bridges to new communities. A scientist in California, exploring our solar system. A waitress in South Carolina, shepherd to an ever-growing family. A naval officer in Virginia, juggling family, friends, faith and nation. A journalist in Washington, saving our civic soul.
And there are millions more such stories, assuringly alike but inspiringly different.
We are not the problem. We are the solution. It is within our grasps. It is within our hearts. We must choose to give love. We must work to give love. Unconditional and uninhibited. To each other.
From that love, we will see each other better. We will understand each other better. We will make each other better. And we will remind and reaffirm to the world that the United States of America has its lamp aflame…bright….beside the golden door of opportunity to our evermore perfect union.
Regardless of…where you’re from…when you last failed or succeeded…what you look like…who you love…who you know…what you do…what you know…what you believe.
So happy Independence Day! And let’s get to work.
[graphic from www.abc-machine-embroidery.com]