Schuck: America isn't perfect, but it's beautiful all the same


The Fourth of July is probably my favorite holiday. 

Don’t get me wrong. Thanksgiving is awesome, but there are dishes.

Guest Writer

Eric Schuck is a holder of a Ph.D. in economics and specializes in the researching and teaching of agricultural economics at Linfield University. In addition to twice serving prestigious Fulbright fellowships abroad, he’s twice been called to active military duty on foreign soil. He and his wife are raising two children who enjoy helping him celebrate his Scandinavian heritage.

Easter and Christmas are fabulous, too, but not everyone shares my religion. So it’s not a fair comparison.

Veterans Day? Cool, but I struggle awkwardly when responding to, “Thank you for your service.”

“Thank you” back? “You’re welcome?” I just don’t know what to say. As I said, it’s awkward.

As for Memorial Day, it hurts. And it always will. I’ll leave it at that.    

Independence Day, though, is awesome in all respects. I have full license to stand all day at my grill, happily drinking beer, flipping burgers and blasting John Philip Sousa across the backyard. It’s middle-aged Dad heaven.

The music is a huge part of it for me. In fact, I have an entire playlist dedicated just to the Fourth of July.

There’s the usual, of course, including the Marine Band belting out “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and the U.S. Navy Band performing its stirring rendition of “Victory at Sea.” How can those be left out?

But I have more, a lot more. 

For the record, song #2 on the list is Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful.” I challenge people to think of a more moving love song to America.

Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” also makes the cut. The guy who wrote “Roll On, Columbia” and decorated his guitar with “This machine kills fascists” is somebody I want at my barbecue.

Less obvious songs figure into the list as well. At #16, I have  “La Bamba Rebelde” by Las Cafeteras, a feisty protest anthem reimagining a familiar tune for uncertain times. You should check it out. 

Perhaps the most unexpected song, though, is the very first: “Fortunate Son.” My uncle introduced me to CCR — aka “Creedence Clearwater Revival” — when he bestowed his 8-track collection on me in the late ‘70s.

Given the timing, and the nature of the technology, it’s a fair question as to whether or not this truly counts as a gift. He might have simply been avoiding a trip to Goodwill. But I’m going to count it as a gift. 

“Fortunate Son” is a challenging song. It takes a clear shot at both entrenched privilege and those who wield it.

It unflinchingly acknowledges that all too often, the people we ask to sacrifice for our nation are those least poised to benefit from it. And that’s wrong.    

Rightly perceived as criticism, many recoil at “Fortunate Son.” You might call it unpatriotic. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Certainly, the words are an indictment of America’s failures. But they are also an inducement to do right.

Once we acknowledge, “It ain’t me,” then we must determine both who we are and who we intend to be.

Challenging Americans to reflect on the chasm between what we say and what we do tempers love of country with honesty.  Unreasoned and unreasoning patriotism should always be questioned, especially if it serves to puncture our hypocrisy and return us to our original aspirations.                   

Starting Independence Day with a healthy dose of humility clears the path for a more honest celebration of our nation. It sweeps away the myths in order to focus on the true.

We are a country that strives “to form a more perfect Union” — not “the” perfect Union or even “a” perfect Union, just one that is “more” perfect.

Like it or not, we have always been and clearly remain a work in progress. And that’s all right. 


We don’t celebrate our birthdays because we’re perfect. We celebrate them because we survived. In the process, we blow out a candle and wish for a better future.

Perhaps our country’s birthday should be no different. So when I’m standing on my back porch with a spatula in one hand and pint glass in the other, as the final chords of “Fortunate Son” fade away and I’ve acknowledged what America is not — not yet, anyway — I’ll wait for Ray Charles to remind me America is still beautiful all the same.


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