Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Birthday Wish For America

Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.
-Abraham Lincoln

Happy Independence Day! Sheila here.
I hope you don't mind indulging me a bit today for our 4th of July 'blog. I have seen a lot of things in print and on TV lately which remind me of the meaning behind America's holiday, so just stick with me here.

Rob and Frank urged me to watch a new show produced by HBO called The Newsroom. The show starts out with a network anchorman speaking to journalism students, replying to this question: "What makes America the greatest country in the world?" I won't transcribe the whole thing here, but Jeff Daniels' character delivers this response after first trying to stay objective and not take a position (because of the perception that journalists can't have opinions):

"There's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, Number 4 in labor force and Number 4 in exports...It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chests. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men, we aspired to intelligence, we didn't belittle it, it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn't scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed, by great men, men who were revered...America is not the greatest country in the world anymore."

I loved that speech, and I think some of it is true. The part about American invention and imagination is priceless. And as a journalist, I love the part about great men informing us - there aren't many of them around anymore because so much of what we see in the media is designed, instead, to shock and polarize people and, quite simply, just make money for a bunch of corporate suits and stockholders who don't care about the ethics we all learned in journalism classes and our Communications Law courses in college.

But I don't agree that America's not a great country. When young men and women still sign up to sacrifice their very lives for our freedom, I can't agree with that. When I see things like a fundraising cookout today at Remke Biggs in Ft. Mitchell for the children of a murdered mother, I can't agree with that. When I see an entire community come together in Fairfield to build a baseball field for kids with special needs, I can't agree with that. And when I see Cincinnati welcome thousands of people from other countries here to sing, I can't agree with that. Those are just a few things locally which come to mind, but I see great, positive things every day, made possible by the wonderful people who live in Greater Cincinnati.

But America doesn't feel so great to some people right now. That could be because of the constant fighting among the people we've elected to lead us. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine is giving up her Senate seat because the Democrats and Republicans -- for the life of them! -- can't get along. In her own Op-Ed in The Washington Post, Snowe describes a "corrosive trend of winner-take-all politics" as she proclaims the U.S. Senate is not working in the way the Founding Fathers intended. Those are strong words to consider on the anniversary of the signing of OUR Declaration of Independence. Have you read it lately? How does this sound to you? "Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it....."

I love my job, but I sure do get tired of reading about the latest back and forth -- and downright nasty rhetoric -- between our country's leaders and would-be leaders. Of course we can exercise our rights at the ballot box. What else can we do? At church on Sunday at my local parish, the congregation recited the U.S. Conference of Bishops' prayer for religious liberty. I am thinking we all need to pray for something bigger than that -- for the U.S. to be truly united again.

Since it's July 4th, I am exercising my right express a few things I believe -- that we DO live in a great country, but there are some things which need to change for America to STAY great. And, yes, I believe prayer works - especially when all of God's people come together for one goal. There's power in that. So on this Independence Day - wouldn't it be great if Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, all faiths prayed together for our One Nation Under God?

My prayer is one of thanksgiving for all of the brave men and women who have fought (and not just on a battlefield) for us to be free in the past, for the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, all of the immigrants, inventors, builders, astronauts, civil rights leaders, and even great artists who have made us proud of America in the past.

And I have a prayer for the future. I pray for a future when we can all be proud of the actions of ALL Americans - for the parents and teachers molding our children, the children standing up to bullying and learning that we live in a global society in which we all have to be careakers, to straight shooting journalists, little league coaches teaching kids about working TOGETHER, philanthropic grocery store owners helping parentless kids and charities, inventors, doctors, social workers, and builders, and let's not forget our leaders right now and in the future - the most high profile Americans who will lead us through the coming days and the rest of this century. And finally, I pray for all of America's children with big dreams who will watch parades and fireworks displays today - that they will contribute to a UNITED States of America, and always feel the Independence Day pride we have for America and our freedoms.

Happy 4th, and Amen.

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