A mission companion once said to me of her travels, "living abroad makes one realize that there is something within that is tangibly American." I could not agree more. While the national anthem and patriotic movies do encourage a certain love of country, leaving the perimeters of this freedom, opportunity and God-given rights to which we pledge allegiance from the day we enter Kindergarten provides us with new eyes and a fresh understanding of just how lucky we are to call this country home.
Poverty, corruption and class separation surely make their mark within our borders, as well as abroad. There is something deeper, though, that I can't seem to articulate, something that rises to the surface upon exiting the country. I keep typing and deleting, trying to pin down what exactly that I mean, but I can't seem to get it right without sounding pompous and US-centric.
God created men to be free and America is a testament to the fact that it is possible. I have rights by breathing that I didn't have to fight for, that citizens of other countries don't even know are options.
Sure, my country has done ugly, nasty things in the history of the world; stealing, lying, oppressing for the sake of self. I love the quote by David Sedaris,
"Every day we're told that we live in the greatest country on earth. And it's always stated as an undeniable fact: Leos were born between July 23 and August 22, fitted queen-size sheets measure sixty by eighty inches, and America is the greatest country on earth. Having grown up with this in our ears, it's startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are "We're number two!""
It's not a sense of superiority I feel, nor disdain for countries who don't mirror the understanding, but my country stands up and agrees with God that men should be free, and that is about the most blessed fact on my birth certificate.
I'm going to have to work on putting this into words that make a little more sense. But for now, I'm feeling proud to be an American, and extra grateful for the individuals I know and don't who have given themselves so that I could be.
And for muppets.