Strive to Make America the Best


It’s never a good feeling to walk into a place where you recognize your ignorance abounds. It’s something I’ve experienced plenty though.  I’ve been on the campuses of some of the greatest universities in our nation. I’ve gone to some of the biggest and most historical libraries. And . . . I occasionally go to Lowe’s.

There’s a scene in Parks and Recreation where Ron Swanson is in Lowe’s and gets asked if he needs any assistance. His reply is “I know more than you.” It’s a funny scene and one that I could see playing out with many people I know. I’m not one of them though. Today, I got turned around looking for a hammer.

Like most places I go though, sometimes the people watching is the most entertaining part. As I walked into Lowe’s, I was behind a man wearing a sweatshirt that I’m sure he felt was patriotic. The back read: “America – Live It, Love It or Get the *expletive* Out!”

My first thought, which happens more frequently as the years go by, was the language on the shirt was crass. Whether appropriate or not, I won’t deny my vocabulary can be a bit vulgar sometimes. However, muttering a word under your breath when you hit your finger (remember, I’m not good with a hammer) and plastering it on a shirt to wear in public seem to be two very different situations to me.

After that first blush, I started thinking a bit about the meaning of the shirt and the political philosophy behind it. The message seems simple, doesn’t it? Deleting the obscene language, it appears to me that it is saying if you are a resident of the United States, you should love our nation. And, if you don’t, perhaps there is a better one to which you should consider relocating.

Okay, perhaps that is reasonable. After all, citizenship is not a permanent feature. Look at our own ancestors. With limited exception, anyone reading this is the product of immigrants to the United States. Regardless of reason, at some point our forefathers saw the need to “Get the *expletive* out!” of their home countries.

While trying to determine the pros and cons of nails versus wood screws, I thought a bit more about it though. People have immigrated to the United States for centuries now. They have come from every part of the globe. Chances are we all know someone who was not born in our country. And just as diverse as their backgrounds are their reasons for coming. Some come for religious liberty; some for financial opportunity; some for our higher education; some to flee oppression. Yet, despite all this diversity, there is one similarity they all have; they came to the United States. To me, this demonstrates the love for our nation is there already.

My assumption is the man’s shirt was advocating a philosophy of if you live here you need to not only abide by traditions, but to embrace them. Fair point. It’s similar to when someone builds a home near a feed lot and then complains about the smell. People should know what to expect and not complain when pre-existing conditions don’t suit them, correct?

However, what is more of an American tradition than to voice grievances and try to right wrongs? Isn’t that the whole basis of our country? 250 years ago, American colonists were in the middle of organizing in regards to problems they had with how they were being treated by the government in London. I’m sure King George III would have loved to have told them to “Get the *expletive* out!” Instead, he witnessed a bunch of outlying attorneys, business owners and rag-tag farmers defeat the world’s strongest military and found the first nation to be based on a set of principles rather than ethnicity or power.

Those same men, recognizing the world would change, also made it where the country could adapt as well. With the creation of the amendment process to our Constitution, and immediately using it, they demonstrated we should always be working to make this country a better place in which to live. And, through the years, that has happened. Rather than taking the “Get the *expletive* out” approach, men and women in the United States have worked together for such advancements as ending slavery, extending voting rights, protection of all people regardless of false distinctions, and so much more.

Esteemed 19th century lawyer and orator Robert Ingersoll said it best, “He loves his country best who strives to make it best.”

I think the man’s shirt fell short of what America should be. Yes, I would hope that every citizen truly loves our nation. But true love wants something to succeed and be a better version of itself than it currently is. That’s what I want. I want to live it. Love it. And make it better. Had I the opportunity, in the midst of comparing tape measures, that is what I would have told the gentleman. That, and that his mother would likely not be proud of his choice of attire when there are ladies and children present.

Tommy Druen is a native of Edmonton, a graduate of Centre College, and currently resides in Georgetown with his wife and two children.   Tommy is a long-time employee of the Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort.