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Happy Independence Day to one and all! It's actually July 5th at my current location, but obviously it's still the 4th where it really counts.

Anyways, like many others, I use the occasion to remind myself why I'm proud to be American. Continue below the orange beacon of patriotism for further pontification.

Today marks the fifth straight year I've spent July 4th abroad. I'm spending this particular holiday in Japan, which happens to be my country of birth. It's always a pleasure to be back as the Japanese are a delightful, though admittedly enigmatic, people and I've had many wonderful experiences here.

Japan, however, is no longer my real home, nor has it been for many years. And every time I return, I can't help but feel a deep appreciation for the opportunity to be raised American. The origin of this gratitude is not monetary in nature as I likely would have lived in relative comfort had my family remained. Nor can I lay claim to a rags-to-riches, Horatio Alger-esque tale of triumph like many other immigrants. Nevertheless, I feel like being an immigrant from any country affords a unique appreciation for being American as this country is truly special compared to all others.

As I lack the creativity to incorporate all of my thoughts into a free-flowing article, I've come up with a list of reasons on why I'm grateful to be American. These observations have been especially reinforced by my experiences in Japan and elsewhere around the world.

We're encouraged to be our own individual- Perhaps more than anything else, I love how Americans are encouraged to think for ourselves and develop our own unique identities. The relatively subtle nature of this luxury suggests we may take our individuality for granted. But many of us who've lived abroad notice how some societies enforce rigid social conformity or suppress a true sense of self-determination. From my experience, the ability to express myself as I please has by far been the most liberating feeling I've encountered.

We're encouraged to express our opinions- I suppose this relates to the previous point, but I believe it deserves extra emphasis and recognition. Sometimes this gets taken a bit to the extreme, but my own perspectives on politics and life have been broadened by the countless inputs of other Americans. We learn and progress as a society when a broad range of perspectives circulate among us. It also fosters communities like Daily Kos and makes for interesting dialogue!

Creativity is a valued asset- I recently read an article about the lack of entrepreneurs in Japan, which probably derives from an over-reliance on previous thinking. The opposite is true of America. As young people, we're encouraged to think creatively and as we grow up, we're driven to critically engage situations and opportunities. This country has enjoyed historic economic and cultural dominance largely because of our emphasis on innovation.

We're the most culturally and ideologically diverse society- I really can't believe how many interesting people I've met in America. Everyone seems to have their own unique life experience which has in turn nurtured a million different ways of thinking. Societies seem to attain a synergy of sorts when they combine the positive aspects of different cultures and different thought processes, and I definitely think that's best represented in the US. There will always be those who we disagree with and those who we think damage our society (which partly accounts for the existence of this website), but I think it's in our country's interests to flesh out the reasons behind our disagreements, even though the dialogue can be maddening at times.

We're really passionate about what we love- Just consider how many people offer political commentary at Daily Kos. I wouldn't be surprised if a politics blog of this scale can't be found in any other country. I think the same can be said about Americans interested in music, literature, sports, writing, science, etc. We excel as a society in almost every discipline imaginable because we're conditioned to pursue what we love with all of our energy.

While these qualities represent our strong points, I would be naive to ignore our many flaws as a society and political entity. Compared to Japan, for example, we have a sick obsession with guns, prolific obesity, and worsening income inequality. We've historically committed horrific misdeeds, and we'll almost certainly commit future transgressions. It is our obligation to acknowledge and correct these flaws as we've done on many previous occasions.

Nevertheless, I think America's positives significantly outweigh her negatives. Everyday I'm thankful that I grew up in this beautiful country; I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be raised. I really hope you can all appreciate America as much as I do, and please feel free to add comment on what you value most!

Originally posted to LennyLiberal on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 10:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It is always good not to take things for granted. (8+ / 0-)

    I think the United States is greater than the sum of it's mistakes and is certainly pride-worthy.

    We always endeavor to form that "more perfect union" and it sure is not easy or guaranteed to work.

    The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

    by sebastianguy99 on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 11:12:07 AM PDT

  •  first, I want to say Hi to a fellow "Lenny" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OutcastsAndCastoffs, Wee Mama

    There aren't very many of us, ya know.  ;)

    Then I wanted to mention something someone in South Africa said to me about America's "cult of rugged individualism"---first he pointed out that South African Afrikaners had a similar mythology (he noted that the symbols of both countries' pioneers were the wagon and the gun), declared that it died there with apartheid and was replaced by a Zulu attitude of community--and then he concluded that what the individualistic viewpoint really does is make us a nation of selfish brats who can't get along with each other.

    I must confess I find some truth in that.

    I would imagine that Japan, a society which seems to celebrate obedience and deference, most people would have a similar view, no?

    •  the symbols of america are not the wagon (4+ / 0-)

      and the gun.  the wagon may recall pioneers and westward expansion, and the gun may invoke ... well, what ever.  but they are not symbols of this country.

      if this country has one symbol above all it would be , i should think, the statue of liberty.

      Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with a-holes - William Gibson. (-9.75 / -9.05)

      by doesnotworkorplaywellwithothers on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:09:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  as I said, they are the symbols of the pioneers (0+ / 0-)

        of both countries.  The US and South Africa had similar histories---we both forged our national identity in a series of bitter wars with England, we both had agrarian populations that were originally restricted to the coastal areas but which had large interior areas suited for agriculture, we both used settlers and military power (the wagon and the gun) to displace the native inhabitants of that interior.

    •  ubuntu is the future (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 04:19:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hey there Lenny (0+ / 0-)

      My real actually isn't Lenny or Leonard or anything similar lol. I created this account 8 years ago and it's beyond me why I chose this screenname...I guess it rolls off the tongue well?

      Anyways, I would respectfully disagree with your conjecture that individuality necessarily subverts community-building and instead encourages subjugation. We are a stratified society, but we certainly aren't as bad Apartheid-era South Africa!

      Individuality and reverence for community do not need to be mutually exclusive. Many urban communities I've encountered are wonderfully close and supportive of each other, and in the absolute worst of crises, this country has historically unified in a very special way.

      When I praise this country's emphasis on individuality, I'm praising it's willingness to tolerate different ways of thinking and generally different attitudes towards life. In Japan, there's a famous proverb that you may be familiar with: the nail that sticks out get's hammered in. It is representative of Japanese society's belief that everyone should conform to a very narrow set of social norms, which I think is incredibly oppressive. I suspect that Japan's higher suicide rate relates to the incredible pressure placed on individuals to conform to societal expectations. They do tend to place a premium on teamwork and cooperation not found in the US, but they subsequently deprive their peers of social self-determination. I do not think that trade-off is worthwhile.

      I can understand where you're coming from, however, as I do believe Americans can do more to help each other. When you think of individualism, I'm sure you think of wealthy Americans' unwillingness to support the least privileged among us. I agree that in a country as affluent as America we should do more to help the neediest. But I hope you understand the brand of individualism I cherish is different from what you may initially perceive. It's a liberty we really shouldn't take for granted.

      GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

      by LennyLiberal on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:47:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the list and the perspective. (0+ / 0-)

    Do not be surprised when you get attempts at hypercritical hijacking of this celebratory diary on this holiday.  Sadly too many kossacks have a knee jerk propensity towards hating on such a celebration.

    Arguing with idiots is like playing chess with a pigeon. As good as I am, the bird is going to shit on the board and strut around like it won anyway. –jbou (2013)

    by Simul Iustus et Peccator on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 01:57:56 PM PDT

  •  I agree, thanks. n/t (1+ / 0-)

    "Every book is like a door"

    by Hammerhand on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:19:00 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this. Gratitude (4+ / 0-)

    is underrated here in the USA.  It doesn't take much traveling abroad to see how fortunate we truly are.

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

    by martinjedlicka on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 02:39:43 PM PDT

  •  What I love most about America is the (4+ / 0-)

    diversity. Sure, there are xenophobes here, as I imagine there are everywhere. But I don't think there is a more diverse society than the US. And we do have the common value of "out of many, one." This does not mean that we are all alike, but that we can find our common humanity to bind us together as a society.

     At our best, we live up to our ideals. But just as none of us individually is the absolute best we can be, we as a society don't always  live up to our ideals. It is always a struggle to be our best, but the values embodied in our
    Declaration of Independence and Constitution give us a goal to strive for.

    You can't scare me, I'm sticking to the Union - Woody Guthrie

    by sewaneepat on Thu Jul 04, 2013 at 03:41:07 PM PDT

  •  I'm ashamed to the core (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Bolivia incident is just one more indication that we've become the global bully.

    •  I'm sorry you feel that way (0+ / 0-)

      As I noted, the US has historically made a number of terrible mistakes, many of which have been far worse than the Bolivia incident. We're still imperfect and we should do our best to correct our imperfections.

      But it is also easy to let the worst of what we see block out the many positives. I would urge you to consider the many liberties and luxuries this country affords you, including the right to openly express your disagreement with government policies. It's difficult to truly appreciate how wonderful America is without embedding yourself in a different culture or society. Please try to understand where I'm coming from.

      GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

      by LennyLiberal on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:58:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We have one of the greatest disparities (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of wealth of any industrialized country and have always had a class system.  

    The United States does have some beautiful scenery.

    •  We do (0+ / 0-)

      Saying it's a serious problem would be an unjust understatement. I hope we can do more to address this issue going forward.

      But as I noted to the poster above, negative aspects of certain situations may block out appreciation for positive qualities. I hope you can cherish the many luxuries afforded by America while working to correct our country's flaws.

      GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

      by LennyLiberal on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:02:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  All of your points are fine, except (0+ / 0-)

    for the individualism.  It's way overrated, and I'm tempted to think that we are better off without all that ideological training (you're an buy our crappy product!).

    •  I think you and I think of individuality... (0+ / 0-) different ways as you seem to think of it from a commercial perspective. It might be difficult to understand my perspective without embedding yourself in a country where equivalent individualism isn't particularly tolerated, like in Japan.

      When I praise American individualism, I praise our society's tolerance for different ways of thinking and different attitudes towards life. Americans are not expected to conform to a very narrow set of social or cultural norms that restricts our behavior and intellectual flexibility. That's a huge problem in Japan that I believe largely accounts for its high suicide rate. I'm very grateful that I can be who I am in America as a Japanese upbringing would not have afforded me that luxury.

      GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

      by LennyLiberal on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:12:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I spent a year in Japan back in the '90's (0+ / 0-)

        lovely country, great people!  I think what you mean is "individuality".  Individualism is the theory that the self is the primary social unit, which for politics means that the public good exists solely to oppress the individual.  This is the opinion held by conservatives here, and is clearly wrong.  Individuality simply refers to the preservation of traits unique to a singular person, a notion that is relatively benign.

  •  I'm not entirely sure... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    No Exit

    ...that most of your points would not apply to a large extent to most other developed countries such as Holland, England, Australia, New Zealand, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, etc, etc.

    Yes, certainly, there are regional, cultural, historical differences, good and bad (depending on your point if view, e.g.: pro- or anti-gun), but, as someone who is both an expat and has traveled a lot, I can't really see your excellent bullet point list and say in all honesty that it doesn't equally apply to other countries and not just the US.

    (Many of these also think they're unique & better than others so we're hardly alone in that respect.)

    Like sf author Clifford D. Smikak, I'm inclined to see people as being basically the same all over. Maybe aliens too. :-)

    Happy 4th!



    by Lupin on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 01:56:08 AM PDT

    •  I meant... (0+ / 0-)

      ...Clifford D. SIMAK! Sorry.

      Read CITY, GOBLIN RESERVATION, WAY STATION, a nice celebration of the best of America.

      OVER HERE: AN AMERICAN EXPAT IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, is now available on Amazon US

      by Lupin on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 01:57:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That may be the case (0+ / 0-)

      My experiences abroad have mostly been confined to Asia; I've never really experienced life in Europe. You seem much better placed to draw comparisons between American and European society.

      But I've experienced life in Japan and other Asian countries, and I'm very happy I had the chance to grow up in the US. I've had such a wonderful life as an American, and I've been privileged to experience the best of what this country can offer. If I grew in the UK or Sweden, I might have a different outlook, but I have difficulty imagining a better life than the one I've lived so far.

      I also think our country's size may endow us with greater cultural and intellectual diversity. Our reputation has attracted significant influxes of immigrants from every part of the world, which has transformed America into a beautiful cultural mosaic. It seems like Europe's Middle Eastern and African population has boomed recently, but I'm not sure they can boast the same level of diversity as the US. Because we also have such a large population, we've been exposed to that many more different ways of thinking, which I think accounts for our unmatched track record in innovation.

      GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

      by LennyLiberal on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:29:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And I have no experience... (0+ / 0-)

        ...whatsoever with Asia (or Africa for that matter), but I'm pretty certain a child who grew up in, say, Australia or France would write pretty much the same (lovely) testimony to these countries as you did.

        OVER HERE: AN AMERICAN EXPAT IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE, is now available on Amazon US

        by Lupin on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 01:08:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd feel much better as an American (0+ / 0-)

    if I held dual citizenship that included perhaps Denmark or Sweden, maybe Canada.

    Blessed are those with the flexibility and the choice to be something other than American.

    May the Conservative Supremes share Paula Deen's heart-stopping culinary tastes as much as they share her cultural ones.

    by pajoly on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 09:24:23 AM PDT

  •  This immigrant agrees with you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts....

    "Corruptio Optimi Pessima" (Corruption of the best is the worst)

    by zenox on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 10:35:45 AM PDT

  •  The United States is the feeding tube of fascism. (0+ / 0-)

    John Pilger
    Forcing down the Bolivian president's plane was an act of piracy
    4 July 2013

    .....Snowden's revelations are not merely about privacy, nor civil liberty, nor even mass spying. They are about the unmentionable: that the democratic facades of the United States now barely conceal a systematic gangsterism historically identified with if not necessarily the same as fascism. On Tuesday, a US drone killed 16 people  in North Waziristan, "where many of the world's most dangerous militants live", said the few paragraphs I read. That by far the world's most dangerous militants had hurled the drones was not a consideration. President Obama personally sends them every Tuesday.....
    •  Honestly... (0+ / 0-)

      I think your designation does an injustice to those who have suffered under truly fascist governments (like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan). America has flaws for sure, but I don't think it helps to make these overblown comparisons.

      If we were truly fascist, we wouldn't have regular elections, you wouldn't be able to voice you dissatisfaction without fear of punishment, and an immigrant from Asia like me wouldn't be welcomed with open arms.

      GOP stands for Grand Old Problem.

      by LennyLiberal on Fri Jul 05, 2013 at 11:38:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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