I was raised in the heartland. I was raised loving America, her beauty, her history, her strength, her example. As a child, I traveled all across her with my family, stopping to marvel at the many wonders she holds and read about those who traveled ahead of us. I learned of our Founding Fathers, their vision and their sacrifice. Of the many fearless leaders since then who've guided us through battles and trying times with an eye towards what is best for her.
I have cheered her victories. I have mourned her losses. My heart has swelled with pride at her generosity. My eyes have filled with tears at her struggles. I have pledged allegiance to her flag. I have stood, hand over heart, and sung of The Star Spangled Banner, and asked God to bless her.
I have, regardless of my evolving political philosophies, always loved her and been thankful to be counted as one of her citizens. I have celebrated her independence in myriad ways. As a child, swimming and BBQing at my godparents'. Watching my godfather hop around the driveway lighting off fireworks and trying not to light himself on fire in the process, while we stood to the side with our sparklers waving around, making designs in the night sky. Though it must have taken place before the actual 4th of July that year, I recall the grand parade and celebration we had in grade school to mark the Bicentennial. As a teenager, sneaking downtown to sit on the steps under the Arch and watch the amazing VP Fair display. As an adult, hosting family and friends at my office to listen to the music and watch the terrific show they still put on every year, even though it's now called "Fair St. Louis." I remember standing on the balcony of my building, holding my daughter up to see the fireworks when she was little -- the utter delight in her eyes (though she was almost equally impressed with the inflatable Energizer Bunny down on the fairgrounds.)
This year was a little different. Last night's "4th of July Eve" show got canceled due to rain. My daughter is camping with her dad. And I got to feeling a little lonesome and low. But a funny thing happened between then and now. As I watched my Twitter timeline scroll past last night, today and this evening, I found myself over and over again smiling at the unabashed love of country expressed by people from all over our country and all different walks of life. And I was, again, reminded why I love this country. What an amazing gift we've all been given. God bless America, indeed.