Why does everyone hate on America these days?
Do you remember the old Superman movies? The ones with Christopher Reeves? For a decade or more he was a hero many of us pretended to be as we ran around in our back yards with towels draped over our backs.
Truth, justice and the American way.
That was his motto.
It was cool to be an American back then.
Acting justly. Speaking truth. Standing up for those who needed a voice and a helping hand. Even Superman himself was an immigrant of sorts trying to find his way through “E pluribus unum.” (Most aren’t even taught that famous Latin phrase anymore. You should look it up.)
That feels like another world, another America.
Oh, it’s complicated and the blame is without end. Yet, over the last 50 years the journey to utopia turned into dystopia.
People became obsessed with the very real broken parts of America. Instead of hyper focusing on racism, immigration, gender equality or the many other points of tension let me offer another way to look at America. The core of what it means to be American.
America isn’t a static thing. It’s a trajectory. Something we are always working to become. From the abolishment of slavery to the big screen with Superman, it wasn’t that we WERE America, this perfect place. It’s that we have ALWAYS believed we were made for more than what we currently were. That’s what being American is all about. Not primarily the realization of what is broken, but the fearless commitment to continue to become more.
This dystopian melodramatic obsession that plagues blogs, Hollywood, our professional sports teams and even national news… the continual beating of the anti-American drum is missing the whole point of what being American actually means.
America isn’t a failed perfect society. America has ALWAYS been flawed.
It’s never been about a “current perfection”, but what we are working to become. America is a collective of people obsessed with taking a country in a direction.
America is a type of direction. (Read that last sentence a few times.)
Thomas Jefferson could see it long ago.
“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.”
That’s what America is. It’s not dead unless we stop growing towards this end.
America is a trajectory. I find that I am ever more proud to be an American. Why, not because we have it all figured out. We don’t! And that’s the point. America is a good PROCESS to be proud of. It’s worth fighting for and defending nationally.
When some confused professor or fellow citizen says, “I am embarrassed to be American because they owned slaves and kept woman from owning property.” Remind them. “We don’t now, and that’s the point!”
- We had an African American president!
- Woman hold some of the highest paying jobs in America!
- Minorities can be famous and multimillionaires!
Oh, we have a long way to go, but we are going.
The only thing that is embarrassing about America are those who see her flaws and STOP being proud to be American. The journey by ALL people towards life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Yes, we have to work out what exactly this means, but that is part of the trajectory. That’s being American. It makes us so incredible and unique.
Yes, we are all ashamed of some parts of America right now, but that’s ALWAYS been true. However, I am not ashamed of what America is about, what it originally meant and what it still means today.
Out of many we are one. One people group that believes that all people are valuable* and deserve justice, to know, pursue and wrestle with truth, and finally find happiness.
It’s a long and hard process, but it’s the American way. It IS being American.
So, if you are frustrated with America, don’t stop being American. Be more American!
(Cue the old Superman music with a voiceover of “I stand for Truth, justice and the American.”)
What does being an American mean to you? Have you ever shared it with someone?
*By “valuable” I mean ETERNALLY valuable. I believe people are uniquely created by God. Many of our founding fathers believed this too. The immense worth of the individual as defined by God is an essential part of being American.