The patchwork image of America has never included more examples of diversity than you can find today.  We are born of the bastard offspring of the three major empires of their time, yet today there is such a diverse make-up of our population that it truly epitomizes the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, a sonnet written by the poet Emma Lazarus entitled The New Colossus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

The Statue of Liberty, dedicated in 1886, has stood all these years as beacon for those who want to make their way to our shores and become an American.  At the time of the dedication we, as a country, were still reeling from the effects of the Civil War, yet using the skills and man-power of our growing immigrant population to push our boundaries even further westward.  This was no peaceful expansion, not by any stretch of the imagination.  The fabric of our country was in the midst of being re-woven into a new quilt.  It included the hard fought battles to reunite our country in the wake of the worst war to ever reach our shores.  It included the greed, the corruption, the growth, the genocide and attempted extermination of native populations.  It included growths in industry and new inventions.  During this time of ever constant change, the name America and to be American was the desire of people from all across the globe.  There was a time when people coming to our shores looked in anticipation for the streets they believed to be paved with gold.

Flash forward to the 21st century, just under 130 years after the Statue was dedicated on Liberty Island.  The immigrations stations on Liberty and Ellis Islands are closed.  There is no longer a wait of ships filled with immigrants waiting their turn to enter the country.  We still have our vast population of people entering our borders, both legally and illegally, yet our name is no longer mentioned with the same reverence that it once was.  In many parts of the world our name is said with complete disdain and often comes with some measure of violence included with it.

While we are still the world leaders in many aspects of life, we have failed to maintain the lead in many of the aspects that are distinctly American.  As one of the richest and most developed countries in the world we do not even lead in education.  Despite our vast natural resources we rely upon other countries to supply our needs.  Self-reliance is making a come-back in many communities across the country but we rely more upon the business models of vast corporations to supply our most basic of needs rather than spend the time it takes to do it ourselves.  We test our children incessantly in school to see how they do compared to others, yet we set the standards to the lowest common denominator rather than try to elevate those who need it the most.  We have settled and come to expect that as a nation that the bare minimum is good enough.

There is a rift in our country.  More than one if truth be told.  On the world stage we shout the term American as if it should carry weight, yet within our own borders we fail to identify ourselves as Americans first.  We have become a country that demonstrates our patriotism and faith in our Constitution, yet the term American takes second place in almost every personal introduction anyone makes.  Ethnic heritage, faith or lack thereof, and geographic location are all hyphenated with America as the suffix.

It has become commonplace to mock and criticize those we have elected to office, yet we do very little besides post our displeasure on Facebook.  Seldom does a day go by that someone does not post or complain about a violation of Constitutional rights, yet we do very little to educate ourselves on what those rights truly mean to us, individually and collectively.  It is much simpler to become ignorantly impassioned and moved by the words of pundits and loudmouths who grow richer off of our displeasure and ignorance.  I hear complaints about the entitlement of America today but those same people fail to realize that we have empowered others to give away what we have worked for without any consequence to those who would do it.  We as a voting populace have allowed careerism to govern us rather than insist on service from those we have entrusted with that responsibility.

The fabric of our nation was woven on a flawed pattern.  It was how it was intended and what makes us unique.  Periodically through our history we have rewoven and added to the fabric, adding our lessons and flaws in a tapestry that was distinctly American.  It has been a long time since the fabric has been maintained or added to. It has become frayed and tattered.  We are allowing personal allegiances and beliefs to drive wedges and pull at the threads that have come loose.

Despite the fear-mongering of many we are not falling as a nation.  We simply need people to step up and lead.  We do not simply need a leader, we need leadership.  We need the type of leadership that comes not from one person, but the voice of the many.  We do not need a doctor, we need a team that can help us heal.  We have done it before, it can be done again.  At the worst times in our country, great people have stepped up and moved us forward.  Americans prosper under the worst of conditions, not “insert any word”-Americans, but Americans.  It is when we put ourselves first that we will begin to rise up again.  Until then I will allow myself to get irritated at the ignorant shit that gets posted on Facebook and sensationalized by the media and their overpaid pundits.  Until then I will maintain the ethic that I was taught is required to be an American and do my best to pass that on to my family and instill in my children, my belief that no matter how bad it may get, it is better than anywhere else in the world I have been.

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