When the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the celebration of the 13 colonies who had just become a sovereign nation may or may not have included alcohol and meat. This July 4th, it will be hotdogs (155 million by some counts) hamburgers and beer that will fill the bellies of Americans rather than a burning, fervent desire for freedom on the level that the founding fathers experienced. However, there is no doubt that the majority of Americans share the founder’s patriotic love for country and, given the current state of the nation, they too are worried about their freedoms. Despite the current challenges to the freedoms of all Americans, if the question made famous by iconic actor Telly Savalas, “Who loves ya baby?” was posed to this land and the land could reply, the answer would be, “My people – the citizens of this great nation.”
While there are some in the nation who seem to have lost their love of country and have no qualms about questioning her exceptionalism and benevolence, most Americans have a strong sense of national pride. Those whose loyalty to the country may be based upon benefits as opposed to patriotism will still celebrate July 4th although the day’s meaning will be largely lost on them.
The national pride held by most Americans, not just on July 4th but every day of the year, stands in the face of some of the U.S. political policies that have served to undermine America’s standing in the world. There are clear indications that America’s allies are concerned about the nation’s foreign policy decisions. Further, world countries that are antagonistic to America are carefully monitoring the cracks in American strength and unity and will use every opportunity they can to further their own agendas.
Some may disagree that America should be in a supervisory role on the global stage. However, it is prudent to remember that America, while engaging in wars, has also been significantly instrumental in preventing wars and has provided a remarkable amount of humanitarian aid around the world. This aid has come at a cost to taxpayers and could perhaps be better moderated but it is the nature of this nation to assist those in need or seeking freedom.
Important as well is the meaning of American exceptionalism and where the term originated. It is not a mantle egotistically adopted by the United States government nor its citizens. The term was originally applied to America by other countries who saw the United States as being unlike any other country on earth and both admired and respected America’s inherent freedoms and political structure.
It can be argued that the founders of this great nation understood the uniqueness of the new nation, which is reflected in the Latin phrase on the Great Seal of the United States, which translates to, “a new order of the ages.” In addition, the bald eagle on the Great Seal has 13 arrows in its left talon and an olive branch held in the right. These two symbols address the American perspective that the United States has, “a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war.” The bald eagle, by design, is facing the olive branch to signal that the United States seeks peace.
While there is no doubt that the United States is an imperfect nation, it can be said that America is at the forefront of freedom and will continue to represent a shining example of human rights and a land of opportunity where everyone has the right to succeed or fail with impunity. Americans will always face challenges to their freedoms and the ideals of personal liberty delineated in the Declaration of Independence but the nation’s citizens will always seek to preserve those liberties and “self-evident truths” and will unite in times of great need. On July 4th, while enjoying barbecues, parades and amazing firework displays patriotic Americans will have a message for the land and this message will be, “We love ya baby.”
Opinion by Alana Marie Burke