Since moving to the northeastern United States for graduate school in 2011, my wife and I have made it a goal to explore the region’s Great Outdoors. We have stayed in a hippie’s log cabin on an island on Maine’s coast and climbed Mt Kineo and met Senator King in western Maine. We have hiked, camped, skied, and drunk dank craft beer all over Vermont. And this summer we visited the mighty Adirondacks for the first time over the Independence Day holiday, for a canoe camping trek in the Bog River area not far from the town of Tupper Lake. It was precious time to think, about the state of our country and our role as Americans in the mid-first half of the 21st Century.
This July 4 was personal. My grandparents raised me going to DC for the Capitol Fourth celebration, where I learned to love Sousa and dance the Twist on the Capitol lawn. But this year, as children languish in state-run concentration camps and as government agencies turn away donations bound for people fleeing conflict and persecution, I found it difficult to say “Happy Fourth.” So I returned to a wilderness that defines liberty up in the Adirondacks, and as I watched a bald eagle soar above Hitchens Pond on July 4th, I reflected on what it means to be an American in the age of entropy and cynicism. And I realized that it’s not the state or identity that defines you, but how you choose to serve your fellow human, regardless of his background or story or orientation.
Across history, states have promoted division while people offer solidarity. What defines a free society is not the words from a government but the actions of its people, face to face, in the flesh, legal or illegal, across the divisions defined by others.
Character is timeless, and I’ve realized that while America may be in crisis right now, Americans are compassionate, resilient, and proudly obstinate in their support of their fellow man, and this makes me grateful to be an American during this time of tribulation.