Photo presented for the Fourth of July by our Department of the Interior
Above, you see our flag flying with the great mountain Denali in the background in Alaska. We are a land with great scenic beauty and wonder. We are also a land with urban blight and despoiled nature. The scenic beauty is more common than the blight, but I have no desire to deny realities that need to be worked on. That is why I worked for years with a homeless shelter.
I am speaking of no other nation when I speak of these things. I wish each nation on this shrinking planet the absolute best version and vision of itself. But ... and this is important ... beyond wishing those nations the absolute best, it is folly for me to think that I really know them. 3/8 of my blood flowed from the shores of Ireland and Scotland, but that doesn't mean I know anything about being Irish. I read Grannymar's blog, but I don't walk her streets or wander through her countryside. I don't walk into Irish pubs or stores and speak with the locals. I may read many perceptive pieces on Ireland, I might ache with what I hear of her travails or glory in what I hear of her accomplishments, but I cannot tell you what it is to be Irish.
Here is the ironic part: I can't even fully tell you what it is to be American, I can only be one. I have not lived in Maine or Wisconsin or Alabama. But, I have lived on the Great Plains of Kansas and I have lived in beautiful California. Yet, something about growing up here, something I can't fully understand, something that comes from living in America my whole life binds me to all these people quite deeply. Einstein was right when he said the fish is the last one you want ask about water, for he lives in it and thus filters out perception of it. Still, that fish knows water in ways that a landlubber like me never can.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate the fact that living as an American stamps you as American (as, no doubt living in France stamps you irrevocably as French). I knew a young woman who worked for one of my customers. She grew up in Mexico and, as she said, her accent and her knowledge of the culture are totally authentic. She came to the United States in her late teens. By the time she had reached her mid-twenties, to travel back to Mexico to see her family was to be greeted in places where they did not personally know her with the description "Americana!" She was amazed. Then she asked one of her friends how people knew right off that she had become American when her clothes and her accent did not give her away. He told her that she now carried herself as an American.
It is something about the culture we each grow up in and I am not sure what it is. All I know is that all of us are what we are and I really doubt that we ever figure out the whys or the whats. And, I also know that others are going to be quite willing to give us the answer with great certainty. And I also know that the answer they give won't be it, because they don't walk our streets, don't live in our homes. And on and on it goes.