Last week we celebrated Independence Day. As a naturalized American citizen, July 4th makes me grateful for many things. When you are born in a country it is easy to take things for granted. On the other hand, when you choose to become a citizen of that nation, you appreciate everything much more. Just as they say, “Converts make better Catholics”, non-native born Americans feel stronger ties to the country. In this column I would like to list what I love about America. Please indulge me.
I love America because in her origins she was founded on solid Judeo-Christian values. The Ten Commandments are proudly displayed on the building of the Supreme Court in Washington DC, and our paper money proclaims unabashedly, “In God we trust.” Even though in recent years some politicians speak and behave as if they would rather forget these roots, I know that our constitution is inspired by strong Christian values. This is one nation under God.
I love America because freedom is assured for all. India, where I was born and grew up, is a free country, and yet so many freedoms are denied to so many even today. In most places you cannot criticize those in power with impunity. True that there is a constant battle going on over freedom in our country, but as a nation we are committed to guaranteeing freedom for all. If someone’s freedom is compromised, there is always legal recourse.
I love America because democracy works. Some people may disagree with my statement but I am convinced that American democracy works much better than in most other places. It is true that we are sorely divided and partisan. Yet the country keeps plodding along. I think it was Winston Churchill who opined that democracy is messy. I do believe that there is corruption even in our system. However, the culprit always gets caught, goes to prison and stays there. On the contrary in India politicians have been found guilty of corruption. They either do not go to prison or even if they go there, they do not stay there.
I love America because God seems to have blessed her abundantly. There are many natural gifts that we take for granted. When I was home a few weeks ago, on two separate occasions I could not take a shower in the morning because we were out of water. I had to wait. Here we have five huge bodies of fresh water that we call the Great Lakes. If it does not rain here for a couple of weeks we talk about a drought. In other parts of the world if it does not rain for a year or two, they consider their country to be in a drought. The amazing landscape, the wide open spaces, the great national parks, the long, winding coastline – all these make us sing “America, the beautiful.”
I love America because she represents the most successful attempt to treat everyone as equal. Prejudice may still exist in some parts of our country, but by and large people are expected to treat others with respect, no matter their wealth, education or social status. I have said this before and I will say it again. I am ashamed to admit that the nation of my birth is probably the most prejudiced in the world. There one is condemned by one’s birth into a group. Discrimination is etched into the political system and the social structure, and it is sanctioned by religion. Caste system is a huge blotch on the soul of India. In America the CEO of a company will socialize with an uneducated, unskilled worker and think nothing about it. You are respected because you share in the same humanity.
Finally I love America because I love the American people. It is my opinion that Americans as a whole are the most generous people. They do not like to see someone in pain. Time and time again I have personally touched the generous hearts of people here. The recent gift that we made to Fr Val and his people in South India is another testimony to Americans’ generous spirit. I am also amazed by our people’s creativity and commitment to hard work. I am touched by the way the people here have welcomed me. I have lived in this country for almost three decades, and never for once felt like an outsider.
Writing about America in the nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville made a prediction. His words sound almost prophetic: "There are now two great nations in the world, which starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans... Each seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world."
This is a great country. I consider myself blessed to call myself an American. God bless America! God bless the whole world!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...