Writing on the weekend of our upcoming Independence Day, I popped a CD in as I worked around the house. It is one that belonged to my late father, whose birthday would have been on the 5th. It's entitled "*Sing America," and it's fitting for the holiday since it reminds me how blessed I am to call this country home.
Within this compilation of American music is “The House I Live In,” a track performed by Frank Sinatra. The version on this CD was recorded in the year of my birth, 1964. Sinatra sings of all the things that mean America to him. I’m going to take that liberty today. After all, this is a free country.
America, Up-Close and Personal
The America that I know the best is that of my heritage and upbringing. For anyone who is born here, America is home. It becomes the land of our birth by default and privilege. I can say privilege, because I have lived in six other countries besides this great land, and though I can actually see her faults better as a result, I can also appreciate her greatness as well.
The up-close and personal America is a life lived on Main Street USA (literally), with holiday parades, lemonade stands, firecrackers in the yard, loving parents, and noisy siblings. This America for me included church, the grocery, library, and downtown shops all within walking distance. Life here was immediate family, including my grandmother, who lived with us, but also a close connection with the extended family on holidays and vacations.
For me, America, up-close and personal, means family and faith, as those were the focus of my life then and now.
America, as a Country
Learning about America’s history was an important part of my education. Even as a young girl, my grandmother gave me a book—entitled "The Story of America"—to instill in me an even better understanding of this place I call home. Understanding the importance of how the past affects our present and future led me to pursue a degree in history at MTSU. Studying history includes an examination of the good and the bad about a nation or people.
The America I studied and know is not perfect but was founded on a desire to live freely by one’s convictions and beliefs. Many paid a price for that initial founding and others continued to over the years, when threats to her founding and principles were faced. Forgetting or dismissing our past is a non-negotiable in my mind as an American.
We must remember. We must remember the harm we’ve caused as a people in order to keep from repeating such atrocities in the future, but we must also remember the great good we’ve been a part of and strive to live up to that model as well.
America, in the World’s Eyes
As I said, I’ve lived in many other countries over the years, and I have the privilege of seeing America from the other side of the ocean and through the eyes of people who have never set foot on our soil. While political winds made some attitudes change in their view of my country, I rarely met a person who did not want to immigrate here. If only they could win that immigration lottery or find a sponsor, they would move in a heartbeat.
Why? Because America is the land of the free, where opportunity comes to those who work for it.
People may work in other lands, but opportunity does not abound. It is well known that anything is possible in America, because people are free to try, to fail, to try again, and not be ashamed. America is a land where education opens doors and hard work paves the way. We have the best system of government by far, and others only dream of such a system of true checks and balances. America is where people can change their religion and worship in freedom.
America means so much to me because I’ve seen her up close and from far away. I’ve come to appreciate her even more after having been away for so many years. I’ve also come to pray for her more, as I see her under attack from within and without.
God bless America. She is the land that I love. May God be her guide for many years to come.
*Sing America is a compilation produced by David Altschul and Gregg Geller. USA: Warner Bros., 1999.