It's been over four months now, and at some point not long ago I crossed the 'longest-I've-ever-been-outside-of-the-country" barrier. In crossing this invisible threshold, my mind has also shifted a bit in it's way of thinking. Being away from my home, America, has always made me stop and appreciate how many great opportunities there outside. There are different sights to see, people to meet, and cultures to experience. The world is filled with all kinds of amazing things, and I think it would be unfortunate to live inside of a bubble and never get to see them.
I have never been one to be terribly patriotic, and if truth be told, I found the entire concept a bit tacky. That is not to say that I despised America or anything even close to that, but I just considered it the place where I happened to be born as opposed to any other. Patriotism was something for older generations maybe, or perhaps something for the politicians to make a show of. A pin on a lapel. With that being said however, my time away has now led me to rethink my conceptions.
America, I've come to realize after all, is a pretty amazing place. I will leave aside the obvious things that people would want to associate with America's greatness like "freedom", "equality" and whatever other catchphrase you want to throw in. Those things all may be true, but it's not really what I want to focus on here. What I have come to value the most is our people. It is a country filled with good people who are hard-working and never give up. They care about what's right, and are willing to sacrifice for it.
These are all pretty lofty sounding ideals that I think probably sound cliche, and if you would have presented them to me just a few months ago I would have agreed with you, but not anymore. When I say these things, I am not thinking about some generic concepts that the founding fathers wrote on some document and that get regurgitated at a national convention. I am thinking of very specific examples where I see people putting these ideas into practice every day (and for the record, I am not speaking of myself here, because to be honest I haven't done shit yet). I see friends and family who have sacrificed so much of their lives to teach our children, to revive our communities, to care for and heal the underprivileged, trying to make our political system better, or are dedicating themselves in so many other ways. These are more the rules than the exceptions.
I want to sign off with two quotes that have been in my mind quite a bit lately. The first was said by a Ugandan to a group of us Peace Corps Volunteers that I think is relevant to what I have been trying to say. He said, "America is a country that is more than willing to sacrifice it's greatest resource. It's people." The second is a bit more simple, and I am going to have to apologize to some, but I just have to say it anyway...
"America. Fuck yeah."