I suddenly stopped eating to scan the dining room. I saw seemingly every make and model of human being enjoying Kansas City barbecue and each other – many in racially mixed groups exuding love and kindness.
I’m fairly certain if there’d been just one penguin at a table, the restaurant might’ve represented all seven continents in one tight space – on one random evening.
This is the real America – not what you see on the news or hear in the constant condemnations of the country in certain political circles.
For this and many other reasons I am today – in as much as it’s within my column-writing power to do so – declaring July to henceforth be American Pride Month.
It seemed natural to me. And I simply looked around and saw both the need and the opportunity.
The opportunity is plain enough when you look at what history or pride months have done for society’s previously marginalized groups. It’s been a real discussion-starter and change-agent. And that’s precisely what this country needs for itself. Moreover, it’s not going to get done in one fireworks-filled July 4th.
Consider: A Wall Street Journal-NORC poll says just 38% of Americans consider patriotism to be very important to them. As recently as 1998 the number was 70%
Meanwhile, huge swaths of the population, and ominously many of our young, can’t pass a basic American civics test, recall any of the five First Amendment rights, or name the three branches of government – and have even less of a clue when it comes to U.S. history.
According to a 2022 Gallup Poll, public trust in America’s most important institutions has plummeted to a record-low 27%.
Meanwhile, America’s domestic enemies are absolutely free to hate the country, but they’re doing it with a brazenness earlier generations would’ve risen up against with unbridled indignation.
Indeed, an associate philosophy professor at Marquette University, on Flag Day of all days, expressed discomfort with the U.S. flag for what he called its ability to create “a sense of inclusion or exclusion.” And a Bakersfield College professor posted that “honestly, the US is a f—ing piece of s— nation.”
Good heavens, this level of ignorance, apathy and even antipathy is a death spiral for a free nation. We’ll need decades of American Pride months just to pull out of this nosedive. We’d better get started now.
Yes, America has serious flaws and much to account for. But it’s more accountable every day. And be careful what you compare it to. Are you putting it up against the impossible standard of perfection? Or against its past, or every other nation that’s ever existed – because, frankly, it does pretty darn well against the latter two.
We may fall short of our ideals, but at least we have some. Ask your friends in the Chinese Communist Party, or most of the “leaders” in the world, what their ideals are. Maybe that’s why millions around the planet are risking life and limb to get here.
We certainly need to work on the country and ourselves 12 months of the year. But surely we can take one of those months, not just a day, to celebrate where we are.
Where we are is inside the greatest nation in history. How can we, especially those in media, education and government, be so apparently oblivious to that fact?
Not long after he was elected, President Obama was asked by a foreign journalist if he believed in American exceptionalism, as his predecessors had. “I believe in American exceptionalism,” he answered, though quickly adding, “just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
No offense to the former president, but he just didn’t get it. What he described was national pride, which many nations share. None, however, share the system of government we have – with power diluted among three branches of government, a Bill of Rights to protect the people from our government, and a soul-level devotion to the rule of law, rather than the whim of man.
To further differentiate exceptionalism from national pride, think about this: There are lots of athletes in halls of fame. Are they inducted because we’re “proud” of them? Of course not. It’s because their records, statistics and championships made them objectively exceptional.
That’s exceptionalism. That’s America. And that is, without a doubt, worth at least a month of celebration and contemplation, if not 12 months’ worth.
So, what should we do to honor and commemorate the country in July? I would suggest three things:
- Make a concerted effort to learn more about America, especially its founding. There are great books and movies that provide both perspective and pride. I also highly recommend planning a family trip to the Williamsburg/Jamestown area of early America, and other places of patriotic lore such as Boston.
- Dedicate yourself to being the best citizen you can be year-round. America runs on little more than the combined character, brotherhood and citizenship of its people. Some suggestions are below.
- Have fun with all this; get excited about being part owner of a self-governed nation because, you know, that really is pretty cool.
Just for fun, I put together what I consider to be the Top 10 Most Patriotic Movies Ever. Make a point to see or re-see them in July:
- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
- Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
- The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
- Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)
- Miracle (2004)
- The Patriot (2000)
- Casablanca (1942)
- The Longest Day (1962)
- The Great Escape (1963)
And here are 10 simple things you can do to honor the country, not just in July but every day:
- Take good care of yourself
- Know what you believe
- Be willing to change your beliefs
- Know how our system works
- Keep up on the news
- Engage each other civilly
- Get involved in civic clubs and projects
- Volunteer for a candidate you believe in, or run yourself
- Don’t follow the herd; think for yourself
- Spread love and kindness, for they are the currency of civilization
Setting aside a whole month to support certain groups was an inspired idea.
It’s time we did it for the country we love.