What Makes A Great American? Essay 6

US Flag, backlit; photo by jnn13

Note from Steve: This is an essay submission for Steve’s Great American Essay Challenge. This was a late entry, but I will continue to post these whenever anyone wants to submit one.

The Great American

On so many occasions, I’ve said the phrase, “That makes you a great American.” I usually say this after someone does something exceptional or when another person and I share a hobby, practicing marksmanship, cars, …karaoke (know it’s cheesy). In those cases, it’s a lighthearted statement that doesn’t really reflect what it takes to be a great anything. Can you image? It would be somewhat conceited of me if I thought that was a qualification of greatness. If I were being serious, I’d essentially be saying that being like me makes them great. Yikes…let’s not go all Trumpy.

Similarly, Sean Hannity will call you a great American if you call into his talk show and agree with him…what a low standard indeed.

No, I don’t think being like me makes an American Great…though I’m trying hard to be a great American, father, and husband. A great neighbor and citizen, as well. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve been thinking that being a great American isn’t all that different from just being a great person, regardless of the country. I’ve lived in and visited countries all over the world, and I’ve met great people everywhere. As I’ve looked back on the many relationships with people I respect, I’ve tried to think of things that were common among those great individuals. I’ve come up with a few.

They are not judgmental. I don’t mean they agreed with everything everybody else said or did. I’m not even sure they agreed with me personally on everything. Whether they did or they didn’t, I never felt like they thought less of me for thinking differently. Their kindness towards me did not carry an unspoken condition that it was only available if I agreed with them…on everything. Today, this is a rare quality. Just go up to any person you know who is clearly left or right leaning, then tell them an opinion that’s from the other side. See what happens. Even if you’re nice in presenting it, you will likely not be met with a kind response.

Exceptional people are not threatened by a person who doesn’t agree with them on every little issue. Often, it’s not even significant enough for them to mention their difference of opinion. They can leave the person wondering where they stand. It rarely does any good to contend anyway. They can hear an alternate perspective, thank the person for sharing, then change the subject if they’d rather not linger on the topic. If they choose to exchange ideas, they do only when they know a person well enough to know such a subject can be addressed without contention.

They find opportunities to be grateful. It is very easy to feel down. If you want bad news, it’s always available, and there are many people ready to give it to you. Being great requires not being like the masses. A person who spreads bad news and brings people down, isn’t being great or exceptional. At best, they are being average. Anybody can do those things. P45 was great at tearing people down. Contrarywise, great people always see good. I don’t mean that they are naïve, rather that they don’t dwell on those negatives.

This search for opportunities to be grateful permeates their lives. They love praising the success of others. “Thanks for doing such a wonderful job on that [report/roof/contract/etc.]. It really shows that you put in the extra effort to do it right. I enjoy working with people of your caliber.” …and they mean it. This type of person also tends to be charitable. They feel so blessed in their lives, that they want others to feel blessed, as well.

A great American is one who loves this country. A person who wants it to succeed and doesn’t say they’ll leave or overthrow the system every four years if the vote doesn’t turn out their way. Part of loving this country is loving the freedoms we’re given. It’s recognizing that for each of us to be free to think, believe, speak, vote, and act in accordance with our agency, we must allow others to do the same. The vary ability for each of us to be free, can only be a real freedom if it allows others to think differently. Therefore, a great American understands that our nation was built on the ideals of liberty. This includes liberties for people that are different from us. A great American goes even further by being grateful they can believe the way they choose, and grateful others can choose to believe the way they choose.

These liberties were the founding principles of our nation. A person can only be a great American if they embrace this ideal.

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