It’s Great to be an American


These are tough times in America. There’s plenty to complain about. But there’s also a lot to be thankful for. While acknowledging such huge problems as unemployment, the oil spill and terrorism, this column suggests the need for balance—the need to focus a bit more on the reasons that make being an American uniquely satisfying.

As an adult American, I have rights and freedoms that people around the world cannot match. My right to life, liberty and property are guaranteed by a written constitution, and they can’t be taken from me without due process of law.

I’m free to say what I want to say, to go where I want to go and to associate with whom I choose. My religious rights and my right to vote are secure, no matter whom the president may be or which political party may control the United States Congress.

As an American citizen, I can be confident that homes and schools and public buildings in my city are built by licensed contractors—that the construction process was inspected by public employees.

Moreover, I can be sure that the food I buy at the grocery and the pancakes I eat at my favorite restaurant are safe to eat. I can be sure that the pharmacist at the local drug store is fully trained and licensed by an appropriate government agency.

And if I’m ever accused of serious wrongdoing, I could rely on the right that protects me against self-incrimination. I’d also be entitled to the advice of an attorney, and to be tried by a jury of my peers. Moreover, until I’d been found guilty by such a jury, I’d be legally entitled to the presumption of innocence.

As an adult American, I know that very little in life is actually free. One generally pays for what one gets. We all pay for the rights and freedoms we enjoy. So we pay taxes, obey the laws, vote every chance we get and do community service when we can.

But we all know that government rarely works as well as it could. And we’re not too shy to complain and criticize. But, in my view, Americans are more inclined to gripe about something Washington did or failed to do than to go after City Hall. Yet, that’s where complaints about government failure would most likely get the desired results!

Imagine if you can what would happen if all the Angelenos who criticize Washington were to focus on City Hall. If the mayor knew the people want the city’s civil service system restored, he’d move quickly to undo the damage done by former Mayor Riordan!

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