In an era where incivility passes for the norm and newspapers thrive on glaring headlines about those incivilities, it may be hard to remember the antics of a president or a congress don’t define a country. What defines a country are the people. America is great because it is a mix of disparate individuals, all of us migrants – including the Indians. (Click) Somehow, through each wave, we’ve managed to maintain a country governed by the rule of law and democratic principles. Those laws and those principles have remained strong even in dark times.
Keeping a democracy healthy, despite tribal instincts and where change is the constant, isn’t easy. Witness the number of democracies that have died in recent years. (Click) “Justice for all” isn’t a part of the human genome. Nor will you find it in any slave agreement or understanding between a medieval serf and his master. In the twenty-first century justice may appear haphazardly, but it exists. We strive for it on a daily basis and the aspiration makes us great, even when we fail… because, I suppose, we admit we’ve failed.
To read our newspapers or listen to the media, our country is awash in school shootings and race riots. Worse, greedy officials govern the country who would sell their principles for a campaign contribution. The degree to which these incidents are true is small compared to the main. An essay I read recently, reminded me what this country represents to much of the world. Everyone should read it and be proud. (“Hatmaker’s Tale,” by Michael Lindsey-Hogg, Town&Country, June/July, 2018, pg. 74.)
The story begins when a man accompanies his wife to a small hat shop where she intends to buy a hat. The proprietor is a woman in her early thirties with an enthusiasm for her work. The man and the proprietor talk while the wife tries on hats. The young woman tells him she grew up during the last war in Bosnia, largely a Muslim country. She talks of her parents who were killed and of her life, and that of her siblings, as they struggled to stay alive during the conflagration. “If you have a few hours, I could tell you of the Balkan wars of 1990s.” She gives him an apologetic smile, after that, afraid she has revealed too much.
Though he may have wanted to hear more, man doesn’t have a few hours. His wife returns with the hat she’s chosen. Reaching into her purse, she pays the young woman. “I love the hat,” the wife smiles.
The proprietor, grateful for the sale, opens her cash register but pauses to glance toward the husband. Her eyes fill with tears.
“I am a U. S. Citizen. I love America.”