30 Great Things About America

It's in vogue to hate on America these days and to pretend not to be proud to be an American, but this is just silly. On this Independence Day weekend, I think it's important to take stock of the good things we have in this country... and here are just a few authentically American things that I'm thankful for:

  • Apple pie ala mode
  • Visits to an ice cream parlor on hot summer evening
  • The Kansas prairie… especially in the hours between a late afternoon thunderstorm and a humid sunset.
  • Sweet Iowa corn
  • Drive-in movies: combining two American favorites—movies and cars.
  • Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, actually most all of the old colonial cities…
  • Barbecues: dad at the grill, mom pouring lemonade, kids playing with water balloons
  • Mount Rushmore: how deliciously kitschy and American to turn a mountain into a postcard
  • Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Harrison Ford: between the three of them we have Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Apollo Thirteen, Band of Brothers, Indiana Jones, Air Force One, Patriot Games, and countless other quintessentially American films.
  • Baseball. Whether a little league game in rural Idaho or a sold out game at Wrigley Field, baseball is a gorgeous articulation of the American spirit.
  • Disneyland and Disneyworld: the crowds, the idealistic nostalgia, the capitalism, the innocence…
  • Extreme diversity. Living in L.A. has driven the point home: America is truly the most diverse country in the world, and it’s a great thing.
  • The National Park System. There’s nothing like it in the world.
  • College sports: do other countries even have something so great as the NCAA?
  • Ken Burns documentaries: Baseball, Jazz, The Civil War, The War… they’re all so exceedingly American.
  • The Oregon Trail: the computer game AND the actual trail.
  • Wilderness: there actually is some left, in remote corners of the American West.
  • Cowboys and Indians
  • Our great poets: Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edgar Allen Poe, etc
  • Our great novelists: Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Walker Percy, etc.
  • Western films: John Ford, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Monument Valley.
  • The Gold Rush
  • The Gilded Age
  • Woodstock: the lasting iconic moment of that most iconic of all American decades, the 60s.
  • Prohibition and the Jazz Age: if only because it gave birth to the best American book of the 20th century (see next item).
  • The Great Gatsby: No words have ever captured the complex beauty and dream of America as Fitzgerald’s in this book.
  • New York and Chicago-style pizza
  • Art deco skyscrapers
  • Our shared national love of kitsch (see towns like Las Vegas, Pigeon Forge, and Branson)
  • The Super Bowl
  • Charlie Brown