Asking a US citizen about national pride can be, like many things in America, convoluted. We are a huge nation, filled with diverse people, a history of great, questionable and downright horrific actions, and a shared belief in the freedom of opinion and speech. That makes for a mighty, strong-minded mess; an open-ended question about national pride produces heart-bleeding patriotism, scorn for our wrongdoings, and every shade of red, white and blue in between.
The flip side is that we can be united by a broader understanding of our differences — and can also find shared passion in our different prides. We should never let white-washed patriotism overshadow our past wrongs or dilute debates about the ethics and morality of our actions. But it remains great that we can all find one point of pride, big or small, in spite of all the wrongs we may potentially see riddling our nation. They bind us together as part of a larger cause, and that in itself is a root of what makes us Americans. This Fourth of July week, the GP staff considered what makes them proud to be Americans, and why.
Our National Parks rule. No, seriously, they’re second to none. I’ve been to 43 countries and have visited as many national parks as humanly possible, but none possess raw beauty, remarkable infrastructure, and absurdly beautiful hiking trails like those found in the US of A. I’ve nothing against my fellow Americans, but the best part of this country are the parts where we aren’t. With over 40 parks to choose from, it’s easy to get lost and not hear another voice for weeks. Which sounds awfully good right about now.
Contributing Staff Writer
It’s good to be an American because of the availability of cold suds. According to the Brewers Association, as of 2014 there were 3,464 beer breweries in America: 1,871 microbreweries, 1,412 brewpubs and 135 regional craft breweries. These numbers reflect double-digit growth in each category compared to the year before, which essentially means the art of brewing beer is only getting stronger, making America even more of a great place to live and kick back.
The land where aviation was born almost 103 years is ago is still the world’s foremost aviation nation. From aerospace design and innovation to private flying, the US still ranks number one. Nowhere else on earth can an individual fly an airplane with such freedom. With more than triple the number of airports (15,000 plus) of its closest peer (Brazil), America’s comparatively open skies are supported by the world’s lowest costs and best aviation infrastructure and flight schools.
There are threats to our culture of aviation from regulation, economic forces, security concerns and a troubling distancing of the public from airplanes and flying (just over 600,000 FAA-registered pilots remain today). But the opportunity to fly is still uniquely there for the taking in America.
In the words of Wilbur Wright: “There is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings.”
Look, we don’t always make the best call, and there’s a lot about this country that is ass-backwards — you don’t have to look too far these days for that — but we really do bring much awesomeness to the world, and it can outweigh the bad if you let it. Music, film, art, technology, sports, business: in every field, we innovate and execute, often with thrilling results, and often in inspirational ways. Apple changed the world with the iPhone, and Tesla is about to change it again. We make amazing music, from Elvis to Guns ‘n Roses to Taylor Swift. A simple two-hour movie defined a generation: Star Wars captured our imagination, to the point that we’re going to collectively pee our pants when the next one comes out in the fall, for a whole new generation. We thrive on success, work hard for it, and take the initiative to make things happen. Now, if none of that inspires you, then go catch a sunset in the Grand Canyon, a sunrise in Smoky Mountains National Park, or mid-day hike in Yosemite. Is America awesome? Yes.
Editor in Chief
The things around us tend to be what we focus on when we talk about American-made goods: cars, leather, avocados. But it’s the quiet giant of Aerospace that I love about this country. People bemoan the woes of air travel — and there’s plenty to groan about — but when it comes to putting homegrown metal birds in the air, America rules the roost. Last year, we exported $125 billion dollars worth of air and spacecraft, making it this country’s largest manufactured good exported. We did it by employing 3.5 million workers directly and indirectly. Aerospace growth also outpaces the country’s GDP, making it industry’s Lebron. And like Cleveland’s son, its dominance shows no signs of wavering. Plenty of folks may have taken to the air before Kittyhawk, but it was two men from North Carolina who strapped a goddamn engine to a flying contraption and took America to flight.
The idea that the best bottles of wine express the land from whence they came is what keeps the world turning for many of us wine geeks. (Undoubtedly, it’s also what makes many of you want to stab us with your oyster forks at dinner parties.) Some of that elusive expression does come down to the science of microclimates — along with soil type, the combination of vineyard elevation, climate and sun exposure are the Big Three in the making of a wine’s terroir. As far as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) go, El Dorado County in California’s Sierra Foothills has got this thing on lock, with one of the widest ranges of viticultural microclimates in the world. Today, many of our country’s most exciting producers (Forlorn Hope, La Clarine Farm, Donkey & Goat, to name just a few) are working in the uniquely mountainous region, and America’s recent renaissance in the eyes of the wine world has El Dorado’s wild terroir to thank for much of that.
Associate Staff Writer
I like America for its confidence. For its guns and flags and high fructose corn syrup. For its free refills and food waste and commercial breaks. For Hollywood and every-flavor ice cream and Southern accents. For Disneyland, Scarlett Johansson and opinionated news. For lawsuits, pharmaceutical ads, tipping, sales tax and Thanksgiving. For child beauty pageants, student loans, bourbon, cajun food and campaign season. I like America as it is: loud, big and frustrating, and always confident.
All arguments about the social and political implications of Manifest Destiny aside, what I do admire about our country is how physically vast it is and the kind of geological territory it encompasses. Without trying to sound like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”, having deserts, mountain ranges, coasts, deserts, prairies and a litany of other land formations at your disposal should instill pride in any American with a taste for travel and adventure.
I can trace my family’s history alongside that of this country’s — both the good and the bad. My mother’s family, who were full-blooded Cherokee Indians, were relocated via the Trail of Tears from Florida to Oklahoma. My grandmother grew up on a reservation riding a horse to school. She met my grandfather, a World War II pilot, after her previous fiancée, another World War II soldier, was killed in action.
On my father’s side, my grandfather grew up in Brooklyn during the Depression and he had trouble finding a job. He met my grandmother at medical school and it eventually all worked out — he a surgeon and she a doctor — but he never lost the drive and blue-collar mantra that you have to work for what you get. Both sides of family are very different: my mother’s in the South, and my dad’s in the North. Yet knowing their pasts, and how they are intertwined with some significant events in American history, makes me inextricably tied to this country. And I think that’s beautiful. That’s why I’m proud to be from here.
I recently watched Gary Clark Jr. loose his soul like a bolt of thunder on a crowd at Firefly Music Festival. It made me remember why I so love the blues, an entirely American creation that’s shaped much of modern music today. The blues has a rich history (it’s closely associated with Emancipation and call-and-response songs of Africa and slavery); it’s pockmarked by strange characters (like the harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II, who rode the identity of Sonny Boy Williamson into fame); anyone can pick up a guitar and learn the 12-bar blues in a day or so, and its lyrics are repetitive and simple, but its greats create transcendent art and communicate their souls; and the blue note and bass-line shuffle are, for me at least, the delectable heartbeat of a heavy groove. Remove the blues and you imperil its heirs: American rock, the British Invasion, jazz, modern pop. You also lose of an art form that translates melancholy and pain into power. In America and everywhere around the world, that’s a beautiful weapon for mankind to possess.