Reflections on family and country

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Sometime late in the evening, the fireworks of July 4, set off by various neighbors, subsided. It had been an exceptionally good day for our family. Some were scattered, of course, but a fair number of the Georgia Clan gathered at 4:00 p.m. for a bit of an impromptu cook-out and pool party. Two of my sons and their wives were present as were six of the grandchildren, and even the newest great-grandchild observed (though he won’t remember it), his first Independence Day.

The evening before, my wife and I prepared for the holiday by watching the sci-fi movies, “Independence Day” and “Independence Day: Resurgence.” At our gathering in rural Senoia, we grilled, ate, swam, watched clean comedians on YouTube, and also watched multiple episodes of “Friends.” We talked, and laughed, and shared life until about 9:00 p.m., when my wife and I went next door to our home. Part of the family stayed to watch the neighbor’s fireworks. I went to bed a bit before midnight.

I woke up in the wee hours of the early morning and felt such gratitude that I find it hard to explain. I have a family of which I am proud and for which I am profoundly grateful. They are like most people … they aren’t perfect, they have, in some cases, made a few bad choices and a fair number of mistakes … but they have sought to learn and move forward from all that and are wonderful people. Lying there in the early morning hours I prayed a prayer of thankfulness and gratitude for all of them.

I also reflected on being an American and living in the United States. I gave thanks for the nation and expressed my gratitude at being allowed to live in this land. I have visited nine foreign countries in my lifetime and, while each had its own unique history and beauty, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else on the planet. I am an American and I am not ashamed to say so.

What is the biggest reason that we have a crisis on the southern border? My university American History professor said that “The greatness of a nation may be known by the concept of the open gate. If the gate is left open, do people rush in or do they rush out?” No one is rushing to get into North Korea. As far as I know, no one is rushing to get into Venezuela. An extensive list of countries could be cited where few people are clamoring to get in.

 But the United States? Knowing that they might die in the process, still hundreds of thousands of people, with their children, leave their homeland and pursue their dream to make a life in America. By that standard alone, the USA is the greatest country on earth.

Every so often, famous people (or at least people who convince themselves they are famous) threaten to leave the country if or because they didn’t get their way. But they almost never do. Some of the richest celebrities, actors, and athletes, heap scorn upon one of the very few countries in the world that makes it possible for them to be a success. They hate the capitalist system, except when it comes to their making a fortune from the very system they pretend to hate.

The poorest, the most oppressed people in America are fabulously rich when compared to citizens in many other countries and have more freedom to change their lot in life, something that millions — perhaps billions — of other people in the world will never have the slightest opportunity to do so in their home country.

No, we are a great country. Not a perfect country, not a country that has never done shameful things. Nevertheless, the gate is open, and multitudes are flooding in, as they always have. And, curiously, very, very few people are rushing to get out — even the people who act as though they despise this land and say they are ashamed of their country.

So, Happy Belated Birthday, America. You are still the best hope of the world for people who love opportunity and who long for freedom. A person doesn’t have to be flawless to be passionately loved. Neither does a nation.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church has worship services at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]