I've always been a patriot, even when I was a kid. My pride in the United States used to give me a lump in my throat, even when I was too young to really understand what I was feeling. Corny? Yeah, probably.
In these post-9/11 days, it is that much more important to me that I live in a country where peace and freedom are a reality. I can't imagine what it is like to live in a country where your perception of reality is so skewed that bombs and destroying the lives of others are your only forms of self-expression. To a certain extent, we are all victims of the circumstances around us, but we also create our own reality. Not every Palestinian thinks teaching their own children to blow up innocent children and old people makes sense. Not every Muslim thinks that there are 72 virgins awaiting them in heaven if they will only blow up non-Muslims. But there are far too many of each.
One of the things that makes the United States unique is the fact that it is, in a very tangible sense, The New World. Physically separated from most of the population of the world, North America took a heroic effort to reach. When you were living in the world that you knew and understood in Europe, it took a very significant decision and a great commitment to get yourself here. In a very real sense, then, we inhabitants of this great country were naturally selected for a desire for a better life. We are the decendents of people who dared to venture into the unknown on a quest for freedom, wealth, opportunity, and happiness. While other people stayed where they were comfortable, our ancestors left their warm beds and crossed an ocean to reach the land of opportunity.
Even the Mexicans who illegally cross into this country have the gumption to risk it all in pursuit of a more promising future. This land attracts the best of the best. People strive to get here. They let go of what they know in the hope of something better.
As much as the rest of the world resents us and loves to point out our many flaws, they, too, recognize that we are a nation of achievers, decended from their own departed pioneers and risk-takers. We, not they, carry in our genes the vision of a hopeful future and the chutzpah to actually go for it.
Flawed and imperfect as we are, We the people are imbued with a spirit and determination that the rest of the world can only dream about. We live it.