Last month I wrote a post that blew up. It was seen around the world and became our most popular post. It stirred meaningful, intentional conversation on my Facebook feed, in my messages, over texts and calls. How people felt pretty much boiled down to the same basic points.
People couldn’t agree what the root cause of the issue was, although a vast majority pointed to either loose morals or general divisiveness in the country that translated into actionable violence. I don’t completely disagree, but there’s a post coming about the “loose” morals many in the Christian community point to after times of mass tragedy.
Everyone agreed that America was the best country on Earth, which is good. For the record, I am proud to be an American. I love this country. In the book I’m writing (hopefully out at the end of the year but at this point I wouldn’t hold my breath), I write an essay about love, particularly the kind I believe in, the only kind that matters. The kind that loves you in spite of your faults but is not blind to them. Love that is afraid to mention your faults is not love. If I’m wrong, doing something that’s hurting me, or if there are identifiable ways I can improve myself, I expect the people who truly love me to be courageous in addressing those things to me.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that most people who commented, love the same way I do, not blind but also unconditionally. People responded well to my criticisms, and offered some of their own, but none of us buckled on our love for the country. That should be encouraging to all of us, especially as we gear up for another grueling presidential campaign. I hope you hold that tension well. That you love your country as you critique it, that you hold your American siblings in your heart as you tear them down.
The other universal I found in these responses, was the emphasis on freedoms Americans feel lucky to have. You know them well: freedom of speech, religion, arms, ideas. Relatively uninteresting. We hash out our freedoms over every medium almost constantly. It’s what our troops fight to protect. What we expect cops to honor. It’s what we yell at football players (both kinds) who kneel during anthems, and what we sing. What was interesting was where freedoms were placed in the conversation. They were used to answer the question “What is good about America” and not just that, but the unasked question “What makes America the best?”
We forget, in our conversations about freedom that it isn’t a uniquely American ideal. Maybe, perhaps, in the 1700’s, it was, but today, I can think of far more countries that have freedoms such as ours than do not. Most of this is a result of colonialist attitudes and Western influence that have raised like-minded nations to public, positive consciousness, while ignoring or smearing others. Still. We don’t exactly hold a monopoly on freedom. And what if that’s okay?
What if it’s okay to love the country and not have a good reason why? What if it’s okay to be an okay country, to be proud of that, but not to be the best, or better than everyone else?
Is it possible to believe that you were born in the best way at the best time in the best place, while also living in the tension that the place you live is not better than everywhere else? Can it be both?
Are we okay being okay?