I love my country, and all that it affords me — freedom to speak my mind, pursuit of success and happiness, the ability to worship as I choose, an expectation of representation in government and the chance to participate in selection of those representatives.
I was blessed to be born here, and blessed multiple times while living my life. Admittedly, I don't have much to compare it with, but I think I like it that way.
So why am I more than a little uncomfortable this Fourth of July?
I think it has a lot to do with the increasingly dysfunctional operation we call the federal government. And while I believe President Donald Trump has a lot to do with it (and I'll talk about that in a minute), the problem started long before.
Somewhere, somehow, we went from a United States that really was united to an us-versus-them mentality. The most visible, and the most harmful, has been the polarization of our national political parties.
Democrats would love it if all the blame could be laid at the GOP elephant's feet. Republicans point to the stubbornness of that donkey and say it began there.
And, in moderation, that's okay. The two party system has allowed diverse points of view to be heard, and diverse factions have a say in shaping the national policy and direction.
I learned early on that politics was the art of compromise, and took that to heart in my daily life as well.
Which explains why I was so uncomfortable when debate and negotiation became vitriol and obstruction. I believe our government became less than American when stopping the Democrats, Republicans, Democratic Socialists or whomever the opposing party might be, at all costs became the meaning of political action.
It got downright ugly when one party tried to claim the patriotic banner to the exclusion of any other part of the country. Since when does disagreeing with a presidential policy make me a traitor?
I think I'm old enough now to claim some sort of perspective on issues like this. I was a toddler back in the days of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, but I'm prepared to say we as a country have not been so blindly polarized since — until today.
When someone can unilaterally decide what's good for our country, when someone can create a reality with no regard for mountains of contrary evidence, when someone can call people "enemies of the country" for disagreeing with him, there is a problem.
In his quest to make America great again, at least in his own mind, President Trump has destroyed the world's trust in America. Why would any other country believe any agreement with Trump or the United States will stand the test of time? The current president — on his own, without ever seeking any agreement or backing, even from his own party — has unilaterally withdrawn from international trade agreements, mutual aid pacts and even nuclear anti-proliferation treaties?
On good days, I have hope our country is strong enough to survive this aberration, to wake up and see this civil war of ideas will get us nowhere. On bad days, well…
Yet I always return to the fact it is a great and wonderful privilege to live in a country where I can say things like this without risking jail or worse.
So I'll display my flag today, and say, just like the song, "And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free."
Happy Fourth of July.