If you don’t feel a little extra love for America between Memorial Day, D-Day, and July 4, you need to check your patriotic pulse. These are the days to reflect on our unique founding, heroic moments, and the cultural activities that define America. At the risk of repeating Ken Burns’ favorite tropes, I have compiled a list of traits and “goings-on” that most of us consider to be quintessentially American. Maybe you participate in them, or maybe not. But we can appreciate all of them, for they are ours, if not exclusively, at least characteristically.

In an order that is subject to debate…

10. Cars and Car Culture

Americans did not invent the car, but Ford’s assembly line made it ubiquitous. The proliferation of the car would ultimately lead to highways, suburban sprawl, and road trip culture. And it doesn’t hurt that underneath America’s feet is an endless supply of cheap oil. Cars became part of the American dream and Americans have always loved cars. They work on them, restore them, “soup” them up, and baby them. Sure, Europeans make wonderful cars; but only in America do we treat them like members of the family. Only in America do we find car clubs, garages for classic cars, films about road trips, as well as some of our most precious memories being our own great American road trips.

9. Baseball

My Ken Burns upbringing is now painfully obvious. Perhaps I am biased because I spend a lot of time at baseball practice facilities and fields with my son these days. The lush green fields, the proliferation of minor league and (in the past) local teams in almost every small town, the typical American scoundrels that excelled at the game, and the fact that it really was born in America, all contribute to making baseball America’s (both past and present) pastime. In our ADD age, I realize faster sports are sometimes more popular. And believe it or not, there is a conspiracy theory which says that the importation of soccer into America was a plan to undermine baseball. But that just makes me love baseball even more. The facts is it’s ours, you can use your hands, and there is nothing more intuitive to a boy than hitting round things with sticks. Long live baseball!

8. Owning Land

America is known as the land of “second sons.” English second sons, you see, did not inherit their father’s estate. That honor went to the first son. A wonderful combination of factors has led to the “American dream” and attainable possibility of truly owning land. First, we were blessed with a lot of land to claim, give away, or purchase. Second, we threw off the feudal aristocracy that owned all the land in Europe. And third, we encouraged free enterprise and the owning of property as a tool for commerce. Today, the property tax undermines true property ownership as the government has become at least a co-owner (if not the actual owner). But the ability to lay claim to land and have that claim defended by the courts is precious to those who came from nations where the elite had gobbled it all up centuries before.

7. Hollywood

Hollywood today is now mostly a cesspool of weirdos, freaks and leftists. To some degree, it always was. In spite of that, there have been some truly great films produced that tell the American story and proudly project American greatness. Americans have made almost every innovation of note in film and have provided a lot of great entertainment along the way. It’s too bad the glory days of Hollywood have been replaced by Skid Row, for Hollywood was once the envy of the world, and not a laughingstock like it is today.

6. Hunting and Fishing

I know the English had their fox hunts, and of course, humans everywhere have fished, which included even Jesus’ disciples. But millions and millions of American men and women enjoy hunting and fishing, both recreationally and for food as a matter of course. Fishing alone accounts for a whopping $115 billion in revenue and 800,000 jobs! In every rural county in America, participation in hunting and fishing is a given; and it is somewhat unusual to find a man that does not do one, the other, or both. The peaceful, often conservative relationship to nature and its bounty that these practices provide is quintessentially American.

5. Rock ’N Roll

I’m always amazed at how much music talent actually comes out of the UK. But I think even The Beatles and The Rolling Stones would admit that it was American Rhythm and Blues music that inspired them to greatness. I am not proud of what American music has become, but from the innocent oldies of the 1950s, to the raw sounds of CCR, to the silliness of glamour rock of the Eighties, Americans have created a music culture that is the envy of the world. There would be no rock and roll without the unique conglomeration of distinct regional cultures that gave rise to a uniquely American sound and style.

4. Our National Parks

Every nation has beautiful areas, but few have been as blessed to have as many diverse kinds of beauty as America. Thanks to the conservationists and the wealthy philanthropists alike who worked to preserve these parks, America has them in droves. And if foreigners traveling thousands of miles is an indication of what is unique about America, the National Parks definitely belong in the top ten. Like so much else on this list, the Park service has fallen prey to liberal ideologues (such as when the Stars and Stripes were banned in Denali National Park!). But nature remains undefeated!

3. Racial Harmony

Now, I am well aware that everything we are told about America is that we are hopelessly racist, given that, as you know, there is slavery in our past. But every four years at the Olympics, I am amazed to see the incredible diversity of America’s athletes. Their forefathers originate from nations all around the world; they are of every possible color, and yet, they still represent America. While racism has been a problem in America, to act like it is not also part and parcel of every nation on this earth is absurd. The fact is, we ended the practice of slavery, and only twenty percent of immigrants who come to America currently are white. Clearly, the other eighty percent don’t believe the false propaganda that America is a racist nation, or they wouldn’t risk so much to come here. So instead of hating ourselves, let’s be proud that we are, for the most part, a non-racist nation.

2. Religiosity

America is also a Christian nation. While not everyone who immigrated to America was a Christian, it is true that many who did were seeking religious freedom. In the old world, your religious identity was still a key identifier of who and what you were. President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the nation in a radio prayer that included the following statement: “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.” Even as the West becomes more and more secular, thank goodness that America remains a mostly Christian nation.

1. The Founding Documents and Self-Rule

It should go without saying that our founding documents are unique in the way they came about and in the government they formed. Truly, they created a government of, for, and by the people. The American experiment was just that: an amazing experiment. Never before have the people been given so much sovereignty with so much opportunity for self-rule. Americans are truly blessed to be given foundational documents that not only did not empower government, but actually empowered the people by declaring and protecting their God-given rights before all. Yes, we have squandered almost all of that over the past one hundred years, but hey…we managed to keep our republic for at least a little while.

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