Remembering what America and being American is all about

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What makes America great?

What are American values?

What makes me proud to be an American?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself over the last several years, almost a decade, actually; through a contentious previous administration and Congress; an even more contentious national election; and an equally contentious current administration and Congress; all culminating in an era of “alternative facts’ and a sense of “can one believe/trust anyone?”

The stories that are coming out of the catastrophic situation in Houston and other areas devastated by Harvey and similar stories that are coming out of the devastating fires in our own area and the rest of the West remind of what, to me, makes America great, restores my faith in American Values and makes me proud to be an American.

I think especially of the ones who have given their lives in the effort to save others and our public and private lands. I also think of those who have given so much enduring (not always surviving) the horrors (and often heroics) of war.

What makes America great is our heart out of which come our values! Deep down, we care about others, At our best we are willing to put everything on the line to help those in obvious need without regard to who they are; where they live; or what they believe; without regard for how it will benefit “me” or “mine.”

In my mind, we are at our best (great) when:

—We pull together for the good of the whole and we aren’t afraid of hard work.

—We believe in justice, honesty and fairness.

—We are generous; we offer a helping hand to those who need it and can expect one in return.

—We want the best for all of our children; we believe in taking care of the sick and elderly.

—We believe in education and the search for knowledge and understanding.

—We believe in equality — in everyone’s right to pursue “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

—We believe that life itself is more important than material things.

—We believe in freedom — to choose; to live without fear; to vote and have our voice heard.

—We believe in debate and considering all aspects of a situation or issue; but we also realize that there must be compromise in the end in order to further the good of the whole.

—We believe in government “of, by, and for the People”.

I have always considered myself a realistic idealist or an idealist realist — still not sure which — so I know that we don’t always live up to our values — personally or collectively. But it seems that in the political realm we have greatly strayed from them and what, to me at least, makes America great.

It also seems to me it’s up to us, the People, to somehow get us back on the path. I’d love to be part of a local group that is interested in dialoguing about how we can do that.

Donna Martin is a resident of Libby.

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