Grateful to be an American - proud just doesn't hit the mark

These days you see a lot of flag waving and "proud to be an american" and "god bless america" bumper stickers. This is a bit too much for me; grateful is more like how I feel.

Don't get me wrong, I love this country in many ways. It's hard to imagine living anywhere else. Almost everyone I care about lives here. Most of the country is beautiful. But I think of myself as a human first, and an American second.

What is there to be proud of? Our behavior, our freedom, that we are the best country?

Our behavior is not always something to be proud of. We have a history of supporting other nations both freedom loving and hating. We supported Marcos in the Phillipenes, the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussien in Iraq, the mujahadeen in Afghanistan... We also helped rebuild Europe after WWII, so there is an upside too. There seems to be little moral direction to our foriegn policy.

Our freedom, on the other hand, is worth being proud of. However, I can not take much credit or blame for that. I'm truly thankful that we have our freedoms. But I had almost nothing to do with their establishment; so have most of the people I've met. The insurance of our freedoms has as much to do with practical reality (our size, two oceans and two friendly neighbors on our borders, our wealth) as with our love of it.

This falls firmly into the realm of gratitude. Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, ..., my Uncle Bob (WWII vet), the ACLU, I thank you!

The most difficult of all is the "best country" attitude. How do you measure "best"?. Well for most people it is what they've done. The human mind has the ability to believe things that give it comfort, regardless of their veracity. This is mostly just a rallying about how each individual's action are also the best. Pole's think that Poland is the best, Japanese think Nippon is the best, etc.

We are the largest country in terms of economy, which translates in to more clout on the international stage. While this is true, it is a pretty arbitrary measure. If China, which has about 4 times more people in it, were to just exceed us in economic terms, would it take the same place on the world stage? Probably not. At that point the average Chinese person would have about one fourth the wealth of the average American. Chinese would still be willing to emigrate in droves for the economic benefits.

Per capita we are still one of the wealthiest nations. This is where we really excel, much more so than in our rights (which are great, but not the best). Our economy is the most vibrant on the planet. This is something truly fantastic about this country. Where I work in computer technology, I work alongside Asians and eastern Europeans, who got entry visas because they were skilled. The building is staff with many Mexicans, who came here not because they were skilled in cleaning or food service, or because they aspired to clean up, but because as nasty as it is, it is better where they are from.

Many people have issues with our visa program and immigration policy. In fact I do, the H-1B visa is lowering wages and raising expectations in my field. But in fundamental economic terms, these people have chosen to come here, and they can leave more easily than they can come in. So, the fact that they come adn stay, means they judge this as a good thing. Who am I to disagree?

By this measure, of offering opportunity to immigrants, we are easily the greatest nations. By my own standards of human first, American second, this is very deserving of pride.

Overall I call it a wash. I'm happy here and love much about America, but feel there is lots of room for improvement, especially in the way we treat the poor and outsiders. Grateful for all that I have and still I hope for more.