Ah, the 4th of July, Independence Day is upon us once again. The smell of charcoal will waft across the nation as back yards everywhere become a monument to man's eternal desire to cook meat over open flames while consuming malt beverages and yelling at the kids. The streets of our towns and cities will be bedecked in red white and blue. There will be parades and old soldiers will suck in that gut and wear their uniform proudly down Main Street once again. High school bands will march sharply and play badly and politicians will wave at the crowd. There will be fireworks all over the country form NY harbor to Armpit Alabama, there will be pyrotechnic celebrations of our nations founding. I'll be right there with pride as always. I have a bunch of firecrackers in the closet, a few roman candles and bottle rockets to shoot up the neighborhood on Thursday. We are into gin and tonic season and I'll have a few of those as I celebrate my PETA (people eating tasty animals) membership by grilling up the largest steaks I can find. There will be friends and family, boats and fireworks and all the trimmings as we celebrate the 4th Kent Island style. I will, as I always do, stop and think of all that has gone into our 232 years of existence as a nation. So many have given so much to make and keep us a great nation. One of course think of the military, the soldiers, sailors and marines who have fought ot preserve our cherished freedoms. From the scared citizens who stood on Concord green, hearts beating wildly beneath buckskin as they held a musket in sweaty hand, to the scared GI who mutters a quick Hail Mary before leaving the green zone, the commitment and sacrifice they have given our country is staggering. I talked to a friend who returned today from visiting Normandy. He talked of the raw powerful emotion he felt looking at the beaches and cliffs those young men assaulted and took. He wept at the cemetery where so many of those young men found their final resting place. Our military won our independence form Britain over 200 years ago and has protected and preserved our status and place in the world ever since. There is no thank you large enough. Without them, there is no us.

I have written before of the contributions of businessmen to our nation. These are often overlooked as men of business are too often vilified and perceived as bad, or even evil. But the contributions of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, The Rockefellers, the Bill Gates and even the Warren Buffetts [Ed.: this may be going too far] to our society cannot be ignored. In the name of profit and gain they have spurred technological innovation and industrial revolution. They bought light into our homes and automobiles into our garages. Because of them we can fly across the globe, have microsecond access to just about anything form a laptop computer. They have provided jobs and contributed generously to build schools, libraries and cultural centers across the United States. Again, without them, there is no us. Then there is the other businessman who makes our nation great. The little guy. Maybe he owns a tire shop and repair center that provides 7 or 8 jobs. He keeps his customers cars maintained and safe, saving them money and possibly their lives. Perhaps she owns a small accounting service helping others deal with intricate financial and tax problems. Or a restaurant that serves thousands of people a year good food at decent prices. Dozens of people will be employed at such a place, form youngsters with their first job to the middle aged waitress who is raising a couple of kids and works hard to give you the best possible service and dining experience. Small business owners have ink stained hands form their printing press, grease under their fingernails that will never come out entirely, they have sunburn from long days providing landscaping and yard services. They have eye strain from late nights reviewing budgets and payrolls. They live on a curious mix of Mylanta , hope and energy. They make our communities better places to live; they provide countless jobs, pay endless taxes and are the financial support for thousands of local charitable and cultural organizations. Without them, there is no US.

Then there are the so called average men and women. They go to work at a variety of jobs each day. They manufacture the products we use, they provide services to make out lives better. They raise their kids to be better educated than they are and hopefully have an even better life. They spend the money that supports business and industry. They pay the taxes that make the country function. They go to church and pray for a better world. They socialize with friends and neighbors and share each others burdens and joys. They may live in Wheatfield, Mo. or the upper east side of New York City. They are us. Their daily efforts to make their own lives better is what makes the country a little better and a little stronger as the years go by.
I know we are far from perfect. There is no perfect man and no perfect nation. I know that the rest of the world is not that fond of us at times. We are perceived as arrogant and materialistic, spreading the gospel of hip hop and coca cola around the globe. Of course, if the citizens of the governments that despise US did not want  hip hop and Coke, we would not be successful at this. There are more people who are free on this planet because of us. Without us Europe would be either a German Dictatorship or a Soviet colony. Here would be no communist China, they would be part of the Japanese Prosperity Zone. Latin America would be Spanish America and Portuguese America. We have never gone to war over territory. We have never annexed a defeated foe. We have taken the sons and daughters castoff by ther nations and turned them into Americans who have given the world far more than the world has given the United States. Perhaps we are not perfect, but I will take our imperfections over dictatorships and theocracies that still dominate many of the governments of the world.

Many decry our culture. Yes, I am afraid we did give you McDonalds and MTV. We also gave you jazz and Ernest Hemingway. From our lands came Faulkner, Twain, Updike, Kerouac and Mailer. Yes, Brittany Spears is our fault. But we made up for it with Bogart, Sinatra and Katherine Hepburn. From the American soul came the blues and rock and roll. Elvis, Dylan and Robert Johnson all are cut from American cloth. Charlie Parker, count Basie and Miles Davis may be well loved across Europe but they are form the United Sates and their sound and culture was born and thrived here. True we are responsible for the genetic cesspool that is the NBA, but we also give you baseball with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Cal Ripken. Our sports are not reserved to the upper classes. A baseball game can be enjoyed by anyone with a ticket, or on a radio while changing the oil or a local tavern television while enjoying a cold adult beverage with a few friends. The good and the great that has come out of our nation far exceeds the average or bad.

The United States of America. Born of a desire to be free to govern, worship, think and live the way each wished. Expanded by the speculations of Thomas Jefferson and the explorers who sought knowledge and land. A land where risk taking and speculation to better one's life is encouraged and supported, where an uneducated immigrant can someday see his sons and daughters attend world class universities. A country where you can, through your own vision and hard work, be who you want and live how you want to live. A place where you are responsible for you own life, but your neighbors are quick to help. A nation that is always first to respond to a disaster whether at home or in a far off land.

We are not perfect. But I still have not seen anything better. The single most important export of the US has been our concepts of freedom and principles of Liberty. It is a nation founded built and protected by the individual efforts of its citizens. It is the land of the free and Home of the brave because of the men and women who are born here, immigrate here and live here. They are US.

So be it the backyard grilling burgers and hollering at little Johnny to stop squirting the damn hose all over everybody; or on a terrace in Manhattan; by the lake in Chicago, in the wastelands of Wisconsin with a G&T in hand and gleam in your eye; a boat on the Chesapeake with beer and bikinis in great abundance; or wherever this 4th of July finds you. Remember for a moment to raise a glass in honor of all those who served, who lived, who built, learned, worked, raised kids and strived for a better life. In their strivings, we have found a better nation.

Steve Leslie writes:

Just a wonderful panoply Tim has crafted to describe  America the Beautiful. This is befitting of an op-ed piece appropriate for any major newspaper in America. Tim's words resonate loud and clear down on the Space Coast of Florida. I personally wish to thank him for sharing his thoughts. G-d Bless America, still and always the land of opportunity.


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