Happy Birthday U S of A

sparkler words, originally uploaded by johnreilly on flickr

Article “Dear America” from This Ordinary Day

Dear America,

Happy 233rd birthday! You may be older than Armenia or Latvia, but trust, me you’re a spring chicken compared to Bulgaria or Japan.

I know I’ve only known you 24 years (going on 25), which isn’t a long time, but I feel fairly familiar so I’ll take the liberty to say what I’m going to say right now.

You and I have had a love/hate relationship. Sometimes you embarrass me. For example, when others don’t respect our choice of past President, or when they poke fun of our native cuisine (hot dogs, yeah?) or our complete inability to wear a scarf in a way that is both chic and useful. I’ll be truthful and admit we aren’t the coolest kids on the playground.

But it took walking away from you to realize how much I really like you, America. Because let’s face it, though you may lack the effortless cool of France or the beauty of Kenya, you are usually the life of the party. You’re the one standing in the center of the room, drink in hand, shooting champagne out your nose, making the whole room laugh (whether it is with you or at you, it doesn’t matter as long as we’re having a great time).

And no one quite does summer like you, with baseball and Sno cones, sprinklers on the lawn and fireworks in the sky. Even though you’re all strip malls and parking lots, cornfields and skyscrapers, you’re also open roads and swimming pools, basketball courts and ice cream stands. It is this time of year, when I’m in rainy, cloudy Scotland, that I miss you the most.

More than anything though you make me believe that anything is possible. You listen to my silly fantasies, even if they involve gold plated Rolls Royces and cocktail parties with Bob Dylan, and you almost always say, “You can do it.” You make me feel like nothing is out of my limit (well, at least as much as an over-inflated mortgage can buy). You make me believe that the whole world can be mine, because you really believe that yourself.

And no matter how far I go and how many times I leave, no matter how many times I’ve tried to disown you or pretend I don’t know you, you’re still always right there waiting to welcome me back. Because of you, I am me and I can’t imagine it any other way.

But do me a favor America: don’t let me down. Don’t lose track of who you are: you’re brave, you’re free, you’re pioneering. This is how you began, but somewhere along the line you’ve lost some of that. Please redeem yourself. Be more considerate of those who are different than you, and don’t forget you were born out of a desire to be different. Re-evaluate those you once hated and treated with disdain. Someday they’ll make better friends than enemies. Be smarter with the way you conduct yourself, don’t think you’re entitled to everything just because you are you America. You’re paying for some of these consequences now, don’t forget this lesson in the future.

You have so much potential. There’s nothing quite like you America. Please believe.

I wish you the happiest of birthdays. May your 233rd year be better than the last.

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