On most 4th of Julys I’m wearing my “Kiss the Cook” apron while grilling my family’s favorites, contemplating what will lead off my fireworks extravaganza later in the evening. This year, with my family visiting relatives, I found myself with only the company of my dog for the holiday. He needed a walk and I wanted some social interaction, so we headed for Lake Calhoun.
As I strolled Friday afternoon, observing the waters of the recent storms exaggerating the shoreline of the lake, and surveying the numerous people wearing red, white and blue tinged clothes in recognition of the USA’s 238th birthday, I noticed an amazing display of unity on the south side of the lake: all ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, ages, economic classes — all of them together, walking and celebrating in a true melting pot of our society, all brought together under the umbrella of exaltation for greatest country in the world.
This wasn’t some organized event or pay to enter barbecue; this just happened on its own. It was stunning.
To compare this to what we usually experience on a daily basis, you’d find it hard to imagine it was the same country. We’re bombarded with the message of who is or isn’t our enemy, how our president is either the worst man to ever walk the Earth, or a great symbol of how far we’ve come, and why you can no longer disagree with someone on an issue, but you must vilify and despise them.
I think the reason so many people dive head first into sports, gaming and reality television is just so they can find a respite from all of the negativity. Seeing the walls of pessimism disappear and a joyful unity take its place brought a feeling of hopefulness.
More in common than we acknowledge
What really brings all of us together on a fine summer day in Minnesota is something highlighted in the Declaration of Independence in regard to “certain unalienable Rights,” “that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Regardless of how people on both sides of the political aisle feel, we have far more in common than we are sometimes willing to acknowledge. We all want Life and Liberty and Happiness, and just because we don’t always agree on how to achieve those things, it’s when we recognize we’re all striving for the same goal that we evolve into something great.
Take the aforementioned overflowing water issue going on in the state. This excess water is affecting us all, from the opulent lakefront mansions around Lake Minnetonka to the lower-income apartments and townhomes of the city. From the roads and land around our biggest corporations to the roads and land around our smallest businesses. It’s the great equalizer, threatening our Happiness at the very least. By working together we can find a plan to overcome the problem. That ideal is what this country is about, working together, not trying to wallow in our differences.
Proud to be in it together
I love America. I am proud to be an American. I love what this country represents and what it can inspire. I might not always agree with the direction we are going, but I can look at my fellow countrymen and women and be proud to be in this together.
I just hope we can find a way to make the good feelings last longer than a holiday weekend or an environmental emergency.
Matthew McNeil is the host of The Morning Grind morning show on AM 950, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
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