July 5th, 2012Fifty Things I Like About the United Statesby Joseph Pearce

Yesterday, as part of our Fourth of July festivities, my wife read me Father Dwight Longenecker’s post on his own website listing the things he likes most about his native land. I am not a native American, unlike all those born here irrespective of ethnic origin, but I am a fairly recent American citizen and thought it might be fun to list fifty things that I like about the United States. Here goes:

Genuinely Catholic colleges
Genuinely Catholic high schools
The homeschooling movement
Bishops with courage to defend the Faith
The relative absence of Big Government interference in people’s lives, at least compared with governments in Europe (although Obama & Co are doing their best to change this)
Independent radio in general and Catholic radio in particular
Great Catholic publishers
Micro-brewed ale in general and Highland St. Therese’s Pale Ale in particular
Kentucky Bourbon
Walker Percy (and his essay on Kentucky bourbon in particular!)
Flannery O’Connor
Wendell Berry
John Wayne (can’t help it!)
Gary Cooper
High Noon
James Stewart
It’s a Wonderful Life
Mars Attacks! (funny!)
Gods and Generals (inspirational and tragic)
Elvis Presley (he’s been in my blood for as long as I can remember and there’s nothing I can do about it!)
Dolores Hart (wonderful as Elvis’ co-star and love interest in Loving You and King Creole and even more wonderful as a real-life nun)
Buddy Holly
Eddy Cochran
Bing Crosby
Dean Martin (his music, not the man)
Perry Como (the man and the music)
Glenn Miller
Country Music (at least a lot of it)
Johnny Cash
Josh Turner
Alan Jackson
Stonewall Jackson
Robert E. Lee
States’ rights
Secession (as an aspiration!)
The South
South Carolina
Ladydale (the beautiful valley in South Carolina in which I am blessed to live)
The American Chesterton Society
The C. S. Lewis Foundation
The Bible Belt (I’d rather have Christian heresy than secular fundamentalism)
Bob Jones University (quirkily American and lovable in spite of its anti-Catholicism)
Bob Jones University’s Art Collection (a delightfully paradoxical collection of fine Catholic Renaissance art in the middle of an anti-Catholic campus)
The Shenandoah Valley
The Smokey Mountains
Sweetwater (the Ignatius Press retreat house perched on a mountain overlooking the Russian River Valley in California)
Seal Beach in California (in spite of its close proximity to Mordor to the north)
Yosemite National Park
Indigo buntings (stunningly beautiful)
My wife and children

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  • July 5 2012 | by Cheryl Pederson

    Dear Joseph,
    I have to see what 50 I can come up with; I will let you know -- oddly enough, I just last week come up with my "Dream Horse Herd" list -- what I do when I catch spring fever. It wasn't finished last year, and this past winter was so mild, I never started (spring fever or my wish list!)

    I list of the 50 things I love best about America -- definitely do-able!
    Cheryl Pederson
  • July 5 2012 | by Paul Adams

    What an eccentric list, Joseph - disturbing, even, like a Rorschach inkblot test! I'm with you at the start, but you have a soft spot for the slaveholders' rebellion? The fanatical, ruthless Stonewall Jackson included?

    I'm partial to Kentucky bourbon too, like the greatest general of the Civil War, Ulysses Grant. Both the whiskey and the general would make my list.

    The only hint of that one great, original and unique American art form, jazz, is...Glenn Miller? No Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis - the greats I loved even as an English teen.

    And the Founders and Founding documents like the Declaration of Independence that Ed West in the Telegraph (UK) just called England's greatest gift to the world? At http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100169065/happy-birthday-to-the-united-states-of-america-the-greatest-gift-england-gave-the-world/

    No Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Merton, St. Katherine Drexel? - they'd all make my list. I'm sure I could come up with some actors and musicians of the last 40 years too to lighten things up - not sure whom though. Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep?
  • July 5 2012 | by Sophia Mason

    Oh, Mr. Adams! John Wayne, Gary Cooper, or Jimmy Stewart > Marlon Brando any day. Together or individually!
  • July 5 2012 | by Joseph Pearce

    Paul, I agree that the list is eclectic, odd even. I knew my mention of Jackson (Stonewall not Alan!) would be controversial. The tragedy of the War between the States is that both sides had the moral high ground on one of the two key issues. Nobody can defend slavery, of course, but nobody should defend the invasion of one country, against the will of the vast majority of its people, by another. Slavery is wrong but subsidiarity is right. The present usurpation of power by the Federal Government should make all of us pine for reinvigorated government by the individual saints.
  • July 5 2012 | by Cheryl Pederson

    50 things I love about the U.S. --

    Beautifully unique Appaloosa horses
    Annual Chief Joseph Trail ride (have wanted to ride it since the '70's
    Blessed candles for prayers before Saints
    24 - 7 Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at
    my Cathedral church
    The New mosaic in Cathedral of Jesus as the Divine Mercy
    That Blessed Pope John Paul II set foot in America
    That our wonderful bishop is now Archbishop-designate Samuel Aquila of Denver
    Archbishop Chaput, now of Philadelphia
    Fr Peter Hughes, American now, by way of Ireland and missionary work in Africa
    Fr C. F. Wilhelm, past Rector of Cathedral, a true Imitation of Christ
    My sybs -- Dan, Jinann, and Dell
    Mr Colin Donovan
    Fr Mitch Pacwa (How many languages?!)
    books by Fr. Andrew Apostoli
    Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha (her love and her penance)
    Proper Catholic teaching -- and people who LISTEN
    All priests who continually give their "Yes" to God, and His Church
    Scenic Photography of America -- WOW
    Black, white and tan Collie dogs
    Bunnies in the backyard
    Tall purple lilacs
    flowerbeds in the spring full of Iris
    Red roses with a raspberry scent (haven't found one in years)
    Fresh, sun warmed raspberries
    Northern Minnesota lakes and trees
    expansive horizon sunsets in North Dakota
    walking across the beginning of the Mississippi River in my bare feet
    short-haired house cats
    Ray Conniff Singers & Orchestra
    Doris Day (movies and songs!)
    Nat 'King' Cole
    Glenn Miller
    Johnny Mathis songs from the 50 - 60's
    Herb Alpert and the T. Brass
    Jim Reeves (Classic Country)
    Eddy Albert
    Johnny Cash
    Tennesse Ernie Ford
    books by Jon Hassler
    Christmas Albums that I grew up with
    Perry Como
    June Allyson
    Burt Lancaster
    Jimmy Stewart
    Gregory Peck
    James Cagney in "Yankee Doodle Dandy"
    Tons of movies & songs from the 30 - 60's
    "Roman Holiday"
    "It's a Wonderful Life"
    "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

    So many movies I thought of were adventures of some kind -- it makes me smile! And I think I know why!

    Love and God Bless!
    Cheryl pederson
  • July 5 2012 | by Manny

    Wonderful list. I always enjoy an eclectic list like that. It's a literary genre on to itself.

    By the way, I just got my first edition of StAR. Very nice.
  • July 5 2012 | by Colin Jory

    As a fellow-non-American – one who has not yet even visited the United States! – I feel obliged to augment Joseph’s gratitude to American with my own.

    I have immediate cause. About the only TV which I watch here in Canberra is the Fox History Channel and the associated channels concerned with historical, scientific and industrial fact. Above all I rarely miss a program on the wars of the Twentieth Century (and, incidentally, on the American Civil War as well).

    This led me to remark to my wife a few days ago on how disastrous the twentieth-century would have been for the entire world had it not been for America. It was only because of America that Germany lost either the First or the Second World Wars – in the latter it would have won even on the Eastern Front, had there been no U.S. supplies to Russia. It was only because of fear of America that Stalin after the Second World War did not occupy the whole of Continental Europe plus the British Isles; and only because of America that Communism did not prevail in all of South-East Asia and all Korea. It was the example of American-led Western prosperity and relative freedom which was the fundamental cause of the collapse of Communism in Europe, and its discreet withering in China.

    When in the early 90s Milosevic, Mladic, Karadzic & Co. were invading Croatia and Bosnia, and murdering on a semi-genocidal scale, the European nations and NATO would have done nothing but continue smugly tut-tutting had it not been for the United States, which insisted on decisive armed intervention. Had it not been for the United States, Sadam would still be in power in Bagdad; the Taliban would still rule Afghanistan; and Muslim fundamentalist terrorists would have wreaked vastly more havoc than they have, and still be wreaking it.

    Yet it has been only because of deep and vital roots of metaphysical belief and idealism in American culture that any of this good could have happened – a major well-spring of which has been Evangelical Protestantism. Indeed, given the catastrophic collapse of Catholicism world-wide since the Vatican Council, both as a community of believers and as a cultural force, it is likely that the United States would be as oppressive a totalitarian secularist thug-state as Canada had it not been that the Evangelical Protestant culture is far stronger there than in Canada, where the only real Christian cultural strength used to be in now-corrupt Catholicism. (Of course, if Obama & Co. get their way the U.S. will soon be another Canada, as some of its states already seem to be.)

    You can tell I’m older than Joseph because the figures of American popular culture for whom I’m most grateful are mostly from a decade before his choices, although there’s an overlap. I think of the Weavers, Guy Mitchell, Jo Stafford, Doris Day, Harry Belafonte, and the diversely talented Connie Francis, to mention only a few whose songs have always gladdened. (Like Joseph, when it comes to songs I'm happy to have simple tastes.)

    A productive theme for academic theses and thoughtful popular writing well into the future would be, How would the Twentieth Century have been for the world without America?
  • July 6 2012 | by Paul Adams

    Joseph, This is not the best place to debate the Slaveholders' Rebellion, so I will just say that the slaveholders had no moral high ground, though they saw themselves as defending property rights. They were not "another country" but in rebellion against the United States of which they were citizens, in defense of a deeply evil institution.

    I guess this is not the place to debate subsidiarity either...but you brought it up and I can't resist. A principle to which I am deeply committed, it involves protecting the space (of family and civil society or associations) between individual and state, recognizing that problems are best resolved by the people closest to them. It does not imply a right to secede, in any interpretation I've seen.

    Defending the property rights of slaveholders in the American context involved suppression by the state of the capacity of slaves to sustain families, form associations or participate in governance at any level. It was the intrusion of the state into people's lives at its most extreme and violent.

    The overreaching of the state that bothers both of us today has more in common with the law and practice of the slaveholding states than of the United States against which they rebelled.