On Facebook, some of my friends and I are meditating on what it means to be an American. Over the past 10 months, while working abroad and visiting the countries of Turkey, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Spain, France, and the islands of Cyprus and Mikonos, I've had a chance to reflect on what it means to be an American, what I love about my country and where I think we have room to grow. I've posted my observations:
- Americans Bickering Over Small Differences, When We Actually Have So Much in Common, So Much to be Proud Of
- Don't Write Obituary for American Empire Yet. We Are Less Like Rome Before the Fall Than Pessimists Assert
- Thinking of Ourselves, Americans, And Our Nation As A Powerful Empire
- America's Basic Values, Which We Hold in Common
- What I Miss About America, What We Americans Take for Granted
- Nationality Matters
- Americans Rank Next to Last in Knowledge of the World
And as an American in Turkey, I've thought about the similarities and differences between the two countries:
- We've Discovered A Handful of Americans in Kayseri, Turkey
- Turkey Is Culturally Similar to America in the 1950s, 1960s or early 1970s
Update: Not surprisingly, my friends have posted eloquent reflections as well. On Facebook, an American living overseas says she's "thankful for her home country...one can't truly appreciate the depth of our freedom and a democracy that liberates its people until one has lived where it does not exist. Thank you to our forefathers for their vision."
Doug Chandler recalled the "60 Minutes" interview, 33 years ago, in which Vladimir Horowitz played the "Stars and Stripes Forever," and spoke about the deep love he has for this country. Click.
Abe Katz, an American who has spent the last year in Egypt, wrote: "The US flag is pretty good, and so is the republic it stands for: allegedly one nation, maybe or maybe not under God, variably divisible, with liberty and justice for most. Happy independence day and never forget the essence of America is that it's an organism more than an institution. The least worst polity on the planet, woot!"Another friend quotes a famous essay by Frederick Douglass, "What to the American Slave is the Fourth of July?" and friends of his point to two Youtube.com readings of the essay by James Earl Jones and Danny Glover, and to an essay at TheRoot.com, "What would Frederick Douglass think about being black in America today?"
A Turkish friend asks the meaning of the Fourth of July. I say it's America's birthday and point him to the Declaration of Independence. We would all do well to read or re-read it from time to time.