From Revolutionary War Victory to Now, America Carries On

Growing up in small-town Oklahoma and now living in Washington, DC has shaped the author’s perspective on the United States. Despite many troubles, it endures and remains the great nation the Founding Fathers envisioned. This Independence Day, Elizabeth feels immensely grateful that she can enjoy her nation’s rich blessings.

July 03, 2024 09:48 EDT

Dear FO° Reader,

In my hometown, the Tuskegee Creek Indian Cemetery sits smack-dab in the middle of a strip mall parking lot. Several times a week, my mom would load my brothers and me into her Ford truck and drive us there to shop at Atwoods, a farm and ranch supply store that sells feed, seed, camo and ammo. It also boasts live poultry, plumbing supplies, candy by the pound, supplies for do-it-yourself livestock vaccination, tractor tires and clothes for the whole family. That includes good jeans and fancy boots for church.

That’s where I was born and raised, in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. The place epitomizes small-town US culture. It’s as American as baseball, biscuits and gravy and John Deere. People there attend Friday night high school football games with the same dedication and fervor as Sunday morning church services. One cannot go to the grocery store without running into at least three friends or relatives. Faith and family are foundational. Life is simple, secure and slow-paced. Folks possess a strong work ethic and sense of self-sufficiency. They devote themselves to the blue-collar jobs and small businesses that sustain the area. 

Towns like Sand Springs imbue one with a necessary patriotism. In a place like this, one is exposed to both the triumphant and sorrowful aspects of the story of America. There’s that cemetery in the parking lot, but there’s also the stranger who changes your flat tire without hesitation, the masses singing the national anthem every Friday night, the flags lining the streets, the Veteran’s Day parades. Where I’m from, people believe that there is something worth preserving, and therefore something inherently good, about the United States of America.

The splendor and patriotism of Washington, DC

I moved to Washington, DC six weeks ago. I live in the District of Columbia, not one of its many suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. I regularly walk past the White House and the Capitol. I play volleyball at the National Mall underneath the shadow of the looming Washington Monument. On weekends, I take the train to places my parents have only ever seen on television. When I was growing up in Sand Springs, I dreamed of life in the Big City. Here I am. Every day that I am in DC, I am in awe.

For all of my urban fantasizing as a child, I never considered Washington an option. My family didn’t travel, and we certainly never visited DC. I always pictured the District as some kind of political Disneyland (which we also never went to), a political theme park where one must wear a suit, work for the president and scan a badge to gain entry. I didn’t realize that it is a city as well as a federal district, or that regular citizens can live over here.

The first time I came to DC, I knew I had to move here. Doing so was expensive and impractical…  and inevitable. This place, for those of us able to sense it, is filled with a strange magic. In a different way than the small towns but all the same, a place like Washington epitomizes what it is to be American.

From the time I could first read, I was taught I was lucky to live in the US. My picture books told the story of my country’s Founding Fathers and their fight to establish a new and free community based upon a shared set of values. I was taught to understand the importance of those values and to recognize why citizens like my Vietnam veteran grandfather would risk their lives to protect this nation. The US rests on a foundation of respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The great American Experiment is by and for the people. This country is uniquely free.

Americans reflect and endure

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, our Independence Day. It makes us reflect on ourselves. The dominant American attitude has shifted in the past decade — pride has been replaced with pessimism. Yet this holiday presents us all with the prime opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of our country and on the attributes that make it a special place.

We are collectively witnessing amazing polarization as the 2024 election approaches. Daily, we feel the pressure of inflation and increased costs of living. Geopolitical tensions are amplifying. No one can tell us what is going to happen next year, next month or even next week. It’s a challenging time to be an American — but when was it not? We survived a revolution, a civil war, two world wars, a cold war, a great depression, a great recession, deadly terrorism and a global pandemic. What’s past is prologue, and this too shall pass.

There is a lot that is wrong in Washington. There is a lot that is wrong in America. But there is also a lot that is right. We have something here that is worth protecting.

Back in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, the Fourth of July is a big deal. Tomorrow, just like my friends and family out west, I’ll eat as much barbeque and pie and ice cream as I can stand. They’ll watch fireworks from the pasture and I’ll watch them from the banks of the Potomac. I’ll feel like the luckiest girl in America to get to celebrate from the capital of our great nation. And when I start to feel homesick and miss that little parking lot graveyard, I’ll hop on the Metro headed towards Arlington National Cemetery. I’ll be grateful that every day here is Independence Day.

Warm regards,

Elizabeth Tate
Assistant Editor
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