How a Brit thinks about the biggest birthday happening this weekend
On independence day weekends, Brits like me tend to lay low. And in laying low, you observe a few things about this country that celebrates its birthday a day before I celebrate my own.
I play volleyball with a first-generation American citizen, and he's been over here since his student days. He's a 'MAGA' fan, shoots guns for fun, drives a truck the size of a small tank and, is one of the loudest and proudest in his love for the country, which has given him a better chance in life. I am not a fan of his desire to politicize recent events or how he can be divisive in how he shares his opinions. But I can appreciate his love for the country and how he embraces what it offers him. It's one of the greatest things about living here - seeing the patriotism and respect that others have for their country is something that many don't take time to consider.
And so in 2020, as Americans are having a more subdued independence day weekend celebration than usual, I think it's worth taking a step back. It may be helpful to reflect on why the phrase 'America - the greatest country on earth' and how it is often used today.
For starters, I don't want to get into whether I believe it is the greatest country in the world or not. I think it's a perception that can only be genuinely informed by data, experience, and the values that hold the most benefit to the beholder. I certainly feel it is a country that offers many opportunities that other countries do not. So why should I, as a Brit living with his American wife on a green card, be thankful for America? What do I want to call out on this country's birthday weekend on the specifics for what I am grateful for and why I'm proud to live here and call it home.
Grateful for 'free speech' and those that said 'enough.'
I should start by saying I fear at times that the country is becoming more closed off and losing its identity as a country of immigrants. One of the main things I miss about the UK is how 'diversity' exists without it needing to be lauded or called out. This manifests itself through the subconscious celebration of diversity in thought-provoking conversations, social engagements and, diversity crossover in all walks of life.
The USA has an immensely powerful mixture of cultures, ethnicities, and belief sets. It has the potential to be so much more when it comes to diversity, however. It needs to learn not to be just diverse in terms of the numbers on a census report but be genuinely different in how that diversity merges and thrives together as one. I'm resurgent with the hope that the Black Lives Matter movement is not a movement at all but a fundamental shift in the way we all live together. I'm grateful to see young Americans taking us on a path to where we embrace our differences, champion our similarities, and strive to live together in a more cohesive, safe, and fulfilling collaboration. I listen to the words Emmanual Acho and 'Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man' on YouTube - you must listen to it if you have yet to do so. I sit back with interest, inspiration, and fascination about his perspective and his truth on the importance of educating white people in America and the value of listening.
Grateful for the positivity that flows through the veins of the country
Even in a pandemic where the country and its governments (both federal and state) are under increasing scrutiny, I run into people that regularly talk about what COVID19 has provided them. The positives associated with time with their children, more time to learn or read, less time to commute, etc. It's a tough time for so many folks right now and, I'm impressed by the solidarity and belief that things will be better and that society will get through this. It's all the more impressive given the ineptitude of the divided nature of the country during an election year. Sadly the US is a country whose politics divide a nation far more severely than perhaps other countries. That may be because of the country's size and youth - she is, after all, only 244 years old.
I recently asked the Head of Sustainability at a global clothing brand: "What would you change to have a bigger impact on sustainability in the world?" He answered - the 'removal' of political donations in the US. It seems money has too influential a role in how politicians are elected. The same money plays into the media, its news, and how communication is channeled.
And yet despite all of that, the country remains a beacon of hope for what is possible when a dream and hard work are mixed together. The USA is a bastion of entrepreneurship, of rags to riches stories and the means of how freedom, choice and, unity can take a country forward. The American people celebrate a champion better than anyone in the world. The only thing they like better than a winner is a winning team and something bigger than themselves. I'm grateful to have had a chance to witness and be a part of groups that live true to this ethic - where people support people and bring a positive, caring approach. The way networking works over here is leagues beyond what I've experienced elsewhere in the world because generally, people are willing to offer their time to help others in a way I've not experienced elsewhere.
Grateful for its value in nature, business, and culture
The USA has some of the most amazing natural wonders - no better illustrated than through her 419 national parks. I wish more international visitors chose to visit them in lieu of the bright lights of Vegas or the theme parks of Orlando. There is so much more to America than all of its materialistic glitz, glamor, and big portioned meals.
The USA produces and develops many of the modern-day cultural treasures that millions around the world listen to, read, or watch. Cultural artifacts may pale in comparison to the art and craft that many other countries offer from their historical heritage. However, the US frequently adds value and relief to everyday lives across the world in a way that a Van Gogh or a Michelangelo does not.
American investors believe in growth, disruption, and innovation and know that their cause is more important than an IRR or a payback period. It has long been the source of most venture capital investment across global markets, albeit its dominance has been waning in recent years. In this sense, America pays its way in supporting how the world continuously innovates - not just through the largest of mainstream Fortune 500 companies but also through the independent entrepreneurs that dare to build a future where paths are yet trodden.
So Happy Birthday, America.
You're not perfect, you may not be worthy (yet) of boasting about being the greatest. Still, you're a lot better than many give you credit for - and you're very much deserving of a celebration in these most sublime of times.
As we sat down to dinner last night, and as we finished dessert and sipped the last glass of wine through to the moment when we climbed into bed - our community was setting off fireworks from their homes - the longest 8 hour stretch of fireworks I've ever heard. So you see, Americans know how to celebrate, persevere through tough times, and come together to bring their collective sense of positivity to a birthday party that everyone in the world should recognize is really worth understanding. It's why I love living here and why I feel welcomed by the kind hearted people that have called it home for a lot longer than me.