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!