As we recently marked the "birth" and independence of the United States, I'd like to ask you to consider a very simple question:
What do you appreciate about the United States?
I often find myself in the company of women and men who are more inclined towards the art of deconstruction and cynicism. We tend to criticize and often harp on the negatives. The government can do no right. We're often called "enlightened evangelicals"--people who have seen the light, and are thus capable and enlightened to be self-proclaimed prophets against the horrible, evil, corrupt, and hypocritical regime of the United States. And I think it's safe to say that many of the contributors and constituency of Sojourners and the God's Politics Blog can be lumped into that group. I certainly can be.
We sometimes say that "dissent is the highest form of patriotism."
Do you really believe that? I don't. How about "some dissent is one form of patriotism?"
Ok. I get it. The United States of America isn't perfect. I share the belief that for a country that has been given so much, we have fallen short. There are things of the past and present that I do not understand--stuff that embarrasses and angers me. The perception of the USA around the world is in shambles. As I write this entry, I'm currently in South Korea where the daily demonstrations and mostly peaceful protests that are going on because of the beef crisis are, well, about more than just the beef, and speak to how others view the country we believe to be the most powerful in the world. But that's another post.
As we demonstrate a level of our patriotism with "some dissent," I think it's absolutely critical that we do not lose sight of the amazing privilege we all enjoy as citizens and residents of the United States of America. We hear and speak criticisms enough. I just wonder if we take ample and genuine time to also remind ourselves and others of the amazing people and country that is called the United States of America. In a similar post on my blog, here were some of the reasons amongst many that were shared in response to my question, "What do you most appreciate about the United States?"
The thing I love about the United States is that everyone here has either left their home and bravely traveled to a new land, is a recent descendant of someone who has, or is a native who, against all odds, has endured a crushing and ceaseless invasion of foreigners.
There's a deep well of courage here.
I'm grateful for the freedoms I have here as a woman. What a relief to be able to drive, work, walk in my neighborhood, and sit alone in public without ridicule. I wouldn't say we've achieved total gender equality, but I do appreciate how Americans before me have lobbied and fought for the freedoms I now enjoy.
America is a nation built upon ideas--pretty dang good ideas!--and upon the rule of law. Our identity stems, not primarily from a shared ethnic heritage, but from our commitment to the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. (At least, it's supposed to!) Can any other nation say the same?
We speak enough of the ways this country and its government has fallen short. So I ask you this question:
"What do you appreciate about the United States?"
Eugene Cho, a second-generation Korean-American, is the founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, and the executive director of Q Cafe, an innovative nonprofit neighborhood café in the city with only a handful of cafés. You can stalk him at his blog eugenecho.wordpress.com.