I’m proud to be an American? Are you?

It’s an appropriate question as we celebrate Memorial Day because this holiday honors our military men and women who gave their lives for their country.

Our country.

My country.

It’s an appropriate question every time we celebrate this holiday, but perhaps even more so this year as we’re being racked by hateful rhetoric. It runs the gamut from derision of the president and his administration, to denunciation of the war in Iraq, to vilification of anything and everything this country stands for or has ever done.

It’s a wide range of hate and it’s reflected in the smoke emanating from my e-mail anytime I write anything patriotic. I never cease to be amazed that people who claim to be Americans are filled with such antipathy to everything about this country.

Those people are not true Americans. They should ease their hate-filled souls by finding another place to live that won’t cause them such grief. But there is no other place on this planet like this country. In fact, there is no other place in the world that would tolerate such public vitriol against government officials, the system and the country as a whole.

These screamers are everywhere – from nameless talk-show callers, to easily named talk-show hosts; from the writers of letters to the editor, to the writers of newspaper editorials; from academics feeding their egos by speaking out as the experts they are not, to members of the media who believe the camera or the microphone gives them sagacity; from entertainers who use fame as a podium to lecture the public, to elected politicians who confuse partisanship with patriotism.

With some exceptions, these people are not stupid. They rail because they know they can get away with it. Anywhere else and they’d be targeted. At the least, most likely jailed and, in many places, separated from body parts or simply killed – or both, in any order.

They’re not proud of being American. For them, every little gripe and peeve is reason to denounce. They are a bother at the least, seditious on average, and traitors at most. There are laws to deal with two of those, but unfortunately no one is doing anything about them. Yet.

But despite their railings, we still have the best country there is and I am proud of it and of being an American citizen. The United States is a marvelous mix.

God Bless America. Land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her …

— Irving Berlin

We are truly blessed. It is a beautiful country, from north to south, Atlantic to Pacific, desert to prairie to mountain to beaches. It has something for everyone and opportunity for all. We have the beauty and the natural resources that make a good life possible.

My country, ’tis of Thee. Sweet land of liberty. Of thee I sing …

– Samuel F. Smith

We are blessed with a form of government that sets up a framework of freedom and opportunity for all. The founding fathers knew what they were doing.

Our population – from original settlers to the immigrants who came here for freedom and a new life – has used our freedoms for success. Freedom feeds ambition and provides the possibility and the ability to dream and succeed. And we have. The United States is strong because of our freedoms and the hard work, ingenuity and generosity of our people. I’m grateful for that.

I’m deeply grateful my immigrant grandparents were able to come to this country with nothing and make a good life. I benefited from that and was able to build upon the foundation they provided me to have a life of health and safety and opportunity. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to work to provide for my children and give them opportunities I never had.

I treasure the fact I can freely drive anywhere without a pass, live anywhere my budget will allow and work anywhere my abilities permit. I can walk freely down the street or hike a wilderness trail. Travel is at my option, and leisure is there for the asking. I am free.

I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free, And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me …

– Lee Greenwood

Some 42 million have served in our military to keep us free – more than 2 million were killed in wars since our founding. Regardless of the battles fought, the bottom line was to protect our freedoms, to prevent those who hate us from stealing our heritage.

Think of it – 2 million young people, our next-door neighbors. Average guys who left home and loved ones to fight for an ideal and gave their lives in the process. Their purpose was to safeguard those of us at home and protect our blessed freedom. We remain free because of them. We celebrate Memorial Day to remember them and honor their sacrifices.

Thank them. Pray for them.

The first Memorial Day honored Civil War dead.

We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

– Abraham Lincoln

Nothing has changed.

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