Saturday, April 12, 2008

What is America to me?

This morning while walking Jake in north Phoenix the words of the Sinatra song were running through my head:

What is America to me?
A name, a map, or a flag I see?
A certain word
What is America to me?

How to answer that?

This past year, and over the course of my life, I've been privileged to see more of this country than most people ever will. Also, for two years of my life I did almost nothing but study American history. So what have I learned about this most powerful nation state?

Too much to cram in to a blog entry, but here are some thoughts nevertheless.

Last night I was standing around with some friends at a small party in Phoenix. The group included the kind of people who go out of their way to contribute to society. They represented America to me. Nearly everyone there was gay, but that fact is minor to who these people are and how they represent this country. One was a candidate for the U.S. Congress. He may not make it into that lowly esteemed body this election cycle but he's the kind of guy who should and will represent his congressional district if he keeps at it. Smart, savvy, committed to a better America. Those are the kind we need in Washington.

This past year I've met all types of people. Different communities dominated my year, but the breadth of my travels and the generosity of friends and family provided glimpses into hundreds of aspects of our culture as I traveled about. Dominant communities included: the rock and gem world, the Airstream world, the interstate highway world, the world of my childhood in Ohio, and of course the eccentric and diverse characters that came to Quartzsite (don't miss my Portraits of Quartzsite series in this space from January and February of 2008).

America is not just rich in wealth, its richest in heart. We screw up for sure. We screw up on individual levels, at the level of community, and on the national level. The mistakes we've made in our so called war on terror are epic in my book, but that's another topic. The freedom and stability that our society gives its citizens is unparalleled in world history and the manifestations of those things in the lives of our people is a thing to behold.

So what is America to me? A name, a map, a flag, an athlete, a veteran, a volunteer, a teacher, a firefighter, a pilot, a lieutenant colonel, his wife, an astronaut, a congresswoman, a philanthropist, a homeless man, a family, a dog, a horsewoman, a horse, an aluminum trailer (and all those other brands of RVs), a voter, an opinion, a set of facts, a blog, a vast and wondrous landscape, a child, an elder, a city, a desert, a mountain, and two oceans--with so much in between.

That is America to me.