Wednesday, July 4, 2018

My Country is Still a Young Country

Happy Fourth of July! Happy Birthday to the United States of America!

My country is 242 years old today. As a nation we are still relatively young, even though we have had a very large impact on the world since the Twentieth Century.

Still, we are perhaps younger than we realize.

In Italy I lived in a building that was more than 242 years old, and it wasn't a historical landmark or a museum. It was just a building. Indeed, it was one of the "newer" buildings! In Europe it's not unusual to find ordinary people who have lived in the same town or region since the Middle Ages.

Of course, there is also a great deal of movement and change in ancient societies over the passing of the centuries, for many reasons. Some things are lost, others are gained. A place like Rome is a kind of living example of this peculiar and ongoing vitality over two and a half millennia.

Seen in this context, the U.S.A. is a young country, and Americans are an even younger "people," so many of whom (including me) are descended from immigrants who arrived long after this nation was founded. After three generations of my family being here, however, I have become very distinctively American (my time living in Italy certainly convinced me that I was far from being "Italian" in any real sense of Italy's contemporary national life).

I have not lost my connection to my Mediterranean ethnic and cultural roots. My heritage and the heritages of immigrants from all over the world are part of the fabric of the American people. We are a young people, a growing people. Even if our ancestors weren't here for the actual American founding, we celebrate today because this is our country.

My ancestors were grateful to become American citizens and I am grateful to be one. I am grateful too that my children are American citizens—and they are descended from not only Italian but also from Irish, Spanish, and Filipino immigrants!

I love my country, which does not mean that I excuse its historical errors or ignore its current flaws. I try to love my country with realism and hope, two factors that seem particularly essential to any kind of real love in this world.

My country is a beautiful country. I have seen much of it over the years. Perhaps I'm biased, but nothing is more beautiful to me than the (truly old) Appalachian Mountains where I have spent most of my life.

So what will we do today? It looks like I will be house-bound and in bed most of the day, but others in the family are (or will be) out attending various celebrations. 

People do many things to celebrate July Fourth: there are parades, parties, barbeques, and, of course, fireworks. And I think many Americans would agree that today is an especially good day to pray. That is one thing I can do with them.

What I have written below is not "polished" or proposed as any kind of formal prayer. It's just the thoughts that came to my mind earlier today. I originally posted them on social media, and I shall reproduce them here below:

Dear God, thank you,
thank you for everything you have given to us!
Continue to provide for all our needs,
and make us good stewards of this beautiful and abundant land
you have entrusted to our care.
Give us respect for the dignity of each and every human person
without exception,
whom you have created in your image.
Grant us the courage to treat with justice, love, and compassion
the most vulnerable persons in our midst,
and all who are suffering.
Grant us peace and solidarity
with the many other nations and peoples of the world,
working together with them responsibly and wisely
in these tumultuous times for the good of all.
Dear God, please bless the U.S.A., my sweet home;
Bless all peoples and nations who turn to you
with their many needs in this world.
And bring us all through this life's journey
to the joy of being with you forever.