I passed a house in Arlington yesterday on my way to physical therapy with a monster yard sign that said “Giant Meteor 2016.” A smaller yard sign closer to the entrance to the home said “Everybody Sucks 2016.” I giggled as I drove by, and lamented not having taken a photo of the place.
I then thought about the signs and breathed a sigh of relief.
See, my parents told me when I was a kid that they voted in the USSR. They voted for the one candidate on the ballot – the one candidate for whom it was acceptable to vote – and a vote for anyone else, or a non-vote could see you tossed in a not so nice, dank place. Not belonging to the Communist Party was also a no-go. No job. No future. No freedom. Being a Jew in the USSR meant no future – at least not in a career of your choice – and near constant abuse at the hands of those in authority.
No, you couldn’t own a business of any size – and even now, unless you have government connections, you ain’t gonna succeed, buddy!
Living in the USSR meant empty store shelves, getting water in buckets from the nearest factory, so you could bathe and make tea, wiping your ass with newspaper, and long lines when stores did get food.
When I first visited a supermarket in the United States, my jaw literally dropped. I was in shock at all the different colored vegetables, the types of cereal, sodas, potato chips, candy, and milk!
So when I hear the drooling acolytes of one of the current presidential contenders screech “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” I really want to laugh at the lack of perspective. I suspect most of these people never left the United States.
And as much as I appreciate our Canadian neighbors – and I do love visiting Canada – reminding us that our country is still great is pretty much unnecessary. Those of us with some perspective already know this, and those without, you’re never going to convince anyway.
Yes, we have nice people, Disney World, the NFL, barbecue, Star Wars, and NASA.
Yes, our Declaration of Independence is sheer poetry. We’re glad you noticed.
But frankly, while these things are neat, that’s not really what makes America great – at least not to my mind, as an immigrant.
What makes us great is that I’m able to write this blog.
What makes America great is that even the douchiest of howler monkeys can have their say (and can be ridiculed when appropriate), without worrying that they’ll be arrested or killed by government agents.
What makes us great is that the right to speak freely, worship as we see fit – or not – write, express ourselves, assemble, and live our lives, as well as the ability to stand up and defend ourselves is actually enshrined in our founding documents.
What makes us great is that we can loudly and passionately espouse our political and social beliefs without fear of government retribution.
What makes us great is that each of us has the opportunity to climb higher and achieve more. It may be difficult – harder for some than others – but we can do it, and many of us have.
What makes America great is that media outlets – even the most idiotic ones, like Salon, InfoWars, and *insert every stupid clickbait bullshit site here* – exist and freely publish garbage. We are free to click or not.
What makes America great is that a person who comes here from another country with nothing can become a success story.
What makes us great is that we have voices, and we can implement change by participating in the government processes from local to national. We can vote – or not. We can write in a candidate, or leave the ballot blank, and no one will come knocking at our door, and dragging us away in the middle of the night to the aforementioned not so nice place.
What makes us great is that one douchebag – or several – can show disrespect for our flag and our national anthem, and still keep their job and still be free to make millions at their chosen profession no matter what race they are.
What makes America great is that we’re a team – we’re a family. Yeah, I may not always agree with individuals on my team. I may think they’re uninformed, blithering morons at times. But I have to believe that the majority of us love this dysfunctional family, and when tragedy strikes, we support one another and those whom we entrusted to lead, and we are generous to others. When push comes to shove, we are one nation and one people.
What makes America great is that we actually strive to be better. We may not be perfect, but we work to be more inclusive, provide more opportunities, and to foster understanding among ourselves.
What makes America great is that small percentage of men and women who are willing to stand on that wall and protect America against existential threats. They step up. I have. My kids have. My friends have. For no bigger reason than we understand just how precious and special America is.
What makes America great is that we have the ability to shine a light on corruption and protect those who do. We’re not always perfect at doing so, but at least those protections exist, and people do use them. Try that in Russia or any other world shithole, and you’ll be at best prosecuted, and at worst disappeared.
No, we are not perfect. Yes, we have massive faults. And lest you think some alien kidnapped me and turned me into a twisted Polyanna version of myself… trust me, I’m still me.
I’m just a me that understands that some screeching dickwads and their harpy followers won’t destroy America’s greatness.
I’m a me that understands that some socialist swine who think others are entitled to my efforts will not ultimately change the nature and the ideal of this country – precisely because we’re ultimately a family, and precisely because our rights are enshrined in the founding documents of this country, and precisely because our very nature, our generosity, our strength of vision, and our freedom to make our voices heard, even though sometimes we forget who we are, will not allow us to be anything else.
So while it’s a sweet reminder, Canada, I doubt that we could ever ultimately forget just who we are. We may sometimes sweep it aside in a bout of partisan rancor or outright bitterness about the short-term state of affairs, but America is already great. We’re great because of our people, our potential, our opportunities, and our freedom to be the change we desire, and anyone who tells you otherwise, because America is somehow not living up to his oh-so-lofty, self-important, uber-religious ideal, is free to leave…
…or get fucked by a cactus. Wrapped in rusty barbed wire. Dipped in battery acid.