I make no apologies or excuses - I am fervebtly patriotic and I love my country. There have been times when America has misstepped, and I feel the same way about that as I do when people cast dispersions on my Catholicism for the scandals of the Church - rather than expect perfection, which is unrealistic, look at the total picture and see how vastly the good outweighs the bad.
I love America. In the summer of 1980, I was an exchange student at Leningrad State University. Workers' paradise? Hardly - I felt as if I had stepped back in time to the 1930's Depression-era lifestyle. And everywhere you went, slogans plastered extolling the virtues of Lenin, Communism, Marxism, etc. Every facet of life had mention of the political ideology and after awhile, it became oppressive.
I love America. My grandfather, Michael Koretzky, came through Ellis Island in 1921. He was born in the Ukraine, of Polish ancestry, under the reign of Imperial Russia and the last tsar, Nicolas II. He was in the tsarist army when revolution broke out in 1917, fought in WWI, and worked his way across Europe before finally getting a relative in America to sponsor his passage. In 1939 he became a naturalized citizen. Years later, while looking for hammer and nails in his workshop, I came across a composition book that my grandfather used to practice his English - even as an old man. I opened it and saw a page on which he had written over and over: My name is Michael Koretzky. I am a United States citizen.
I love America. I served in the US Army. I take pride in all of our armed forces because we are the strongest and yes, still the most disciplined and most compassionate. I live in a country where I can look up as military aircraft passes and feel pride and security - not fear. The US military, unlike as in some countries where it is used as a ticket to power and corruption, embodies the idea of service. Our men and women do not revel in war, but do not shrink from defense and the destruction of evil. I have no shame that it was the United States that put Hussein's neck in a noose - rather, I am proud of that.
I love America. I took an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution. As an insider, I can tell you about flaws in our justice system - but I can tell you about many more benefits. People are not always happy about outcomes - yeah, OJ did it - but the system is overall fair and just. When I had the chance to attend a program in Bologna, Italy, one Italian lawyer was astounded that we had confidentiality between attorneys and clients. I gaped, thinking this is a basic tenet worldwide, but he told me that in his country, a lawyer can be called to testify against a client. In the Orange County Superior Court, in California, there is one judge - Michael J. Naughton - who gets it right when every morning, he has his bailiff instruct everyone to rise and face the flag, and the bailiff intones something along the lines of "Before the flag of the United States of America, before the Great Seal of the State of California, and the principles of justice for which both stand, this court is now in session . . ." Commissioner Rocky Crabb in Pomona does something similar. I wish all judicial officers did that, because people need that as a reminder that the courtroom is not just another room.
I love America. Later this morning I will attend Mass at my church. My Church is not underground here - it doesn't need to be. I would hope that every house of worship in the United States offers a service of some kind, so their congregants can thank God for this country and the freedoms we enjoy - one of which is to be able to have such a service.
Go celebrate. Please remember to take your hat off when the flag is presented, and stand up and place your hand over your heart when the anthem is sung. Think of how large a country we are and yet, we make it work.
God bless America, land that I love.