American values are difficult to define succinctly. There are the wild west boot straps ideals, the immigrant tenacity, and Mayflower archetypes. American values are a mosaic of cultures, religions, and stories. What brings us together and defines us as decidedly American is different person to person. We do not look alike or sound alike or worship alike. We do, however, share in some basic manifestations of our American privileges. We vote. We speak out. We worship freely. We pursue a happiness we define for ourselves.
There is no better way to make American values come to life than to engage in our government and democracy. For the people, by the people. We are the people. It is so easy to take our rights for granted. I tell my sons that voting and speaking out against oppression and injustice are privileges as well as rights. I tell them how so many people around the world are not free to vote in open elections and participate in their government. It’s more than rights and civic engagement. It’s more than the don’t-complain-if-you-didn’t-vote mentality. Taking an active role in our participatory democracy is a privilege, one that many around the globe will never experience.
This includes our ability to pray and celebrate our heritage. This is about how we respect each other’s religions, cultures, and paradigms. We sustain our American values through our faith and family, but the way to light it up in a banner of star spangled fireworks is to take part in our system. We enjoy a freedom of speech and prayer like no other. It is our voices, no matter how different, that make us all American.
This post is part of a weekly conversation with our Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and what the other writers have to say, see "How Do We Best Sustain American Values?"
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