Does this mean that we are as a nation perfect and infallible? That we have ended discrimination, deterred marginalization or stymied radicalization? That we overwhelmingly have convinced others to bear more fruit rather than ill-will toward our fellow inhabitants not only in this country but throughout the world? No, it does not. Nevertheless, this nation has been and ever shall be that beacon of such hope and promise, pledged in earnest and forged in sacrifice since our provenance. This simple yet important virtue has sustained through difficult times and steered during prosperity. So what is America? Traverse from sea to shining sea, visit a majestic landmark for free, eat and drink the local fare in golden jubilee. Undeniably, you would witness that we are the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless and the tempest-tossed. Yet, more than anything, we are the invigorated, the fortunate, the resolute individuals, the blessed gems, the persevering and the undaunted. We stand together in the face of a challenge, and challenge each other to stand together united in our similarities and in spite of our differences.
Since inception as a sovereign republic, Americans have never desired to be conquerors, oppressors or rulers in the name of absolute authority. Likewise, we never have wished to be subjugated by the same, instead standing with those who would throw off the shackles of such tyranny. It is to this core trait that America owes its very existence, and to which many still flock in search of such dominion and independence from their native hardships and persecutions. Admittedly, this innate characteristic has elicited much consternation, tumult and even rebellious hostilities to balance the necessities of governance and the demands of liberty over the years. Nevertheless, our ability to compromise and reconcile this incontrovertible duality that seems at odds is what binds us as a whole. To paraphrase former president Abraham Lincoln, the union of government and citizens established and composed “of the people, by the people and for the people” could not stand without it.
Naturally, it is the people - from all backgrounds and ethnicities - who are the heart and soul of America. With this patriotic camaraderie - as opposed to xenophobic nationalism - comes a sense of belonging and identity amalgamated and distilled from many nationalities. In this environment, traditions of the whole take precedent while allowing the free expression of individual and regional ones without fear of reprisal or suppression as so often occurs throughout the world. Despite cynicism and negativity to the contrary, we are but only one of a few nations who can boast of this inherent and guaranteed right whether native- or naturalized-born.
What is the spirit of America? It is our uniqueness in shared beliefs, fundamentals and tenets, an unprecedented commitment and loyalty to all with blind fealty to none and, most especially, those unabashedly willing to integrate and maintain these virtues on a daily basis. It is the opportunity and promise afforded by these conditions to achieve a life that otherwise might not have been forthcoming under different circumstances. History certainly did not begin with the Treaty of Paris (1783) or adoption of the U.S. Constitution (1789); it is prideful arrogance to believe such a notion. Nevertheless, may it never wane and may these United States of America never face that last gleam of its twilight so long as its citizens continue to strive toward a more perfect union as envisioned by our founders.
©2016 Steve Sagarra