Mike Cunningham

Did you happen to catch the rousing patriotic celebrations of America’s history and ideals that the national media aired on Independence Day? Yeah, I didn’t either. I’m not sure there were any. At a time when most Americans reflect on the liberties and freedoms brought forth by patriots 243 years ago, the beautiful people were having none of it.

Instead, what did we see? The captain of the USA women’s soccer team disparaged our president and the country she’s paid to represent. The president was faulted for honoring our nation’s military on the Fourth of July. One of the most popular brands in America scrapped a new product because the image of an America flag on the back of a shoe was too divisive. What is going on?

Our country is no longer one nation united. We have become splintered and fractured, with each faction insisting their interests take precedence over all others. It seems the only thing some Americans can agree upon is how bad America is. Well, I’m having none of that.

Let’s just consider a recent brouhaha for a moment. On one hand, we have an athlete who hasn’t taken the field in three years. He still earns millions, not for completing passes, but for criticizing America. His latest claim to fame? He condemned the company that signs his paycheck for marketing a shoe that bore an image of America’s original flag.

Think about that. The original “Betsy Ross Flag” was sewn in secret for fear that the British Army would find it. The 13 stars and stripes on the flag represent more than just 13 colonies. They are a symbol of defiance against oppression. They are truly a standard for freedom and declaration that one nation would stand for liberty . . . for all.

Historians debate whether Betsy Ross actually sewed that first flag, but there’s no reason to believe she was anything but a patriot who staunchly supported the ideals of the Founders. Born a Quaker, Ross opposed slavery. She also lived in Pennsylvania, where slavery was abolished at the time of the American Revolution. Ross’s first husband was killed serving in the militia. Her second husband was captured by the British and charged with treason.

The U.S. Flag has been updated 27 times since the Continental Congress first commissioned a star-spangled banner. As states came into the Union, more stars were added to the flag. Just as the size of our nation increased, so did its vision. Over the past two centuries, the definition of “American” has expanded as we confronted shortcomings of the original experiment in freedom. That should be celebrated, not denigrated.

For myself, and many Americans like me, this whole controversy makes no sense. Is America perfect? No, it wasn’t perfect in 1776, and it’s not perfect today. But, yesterday and today, there is no better nation on Earth. Only in America do The People — people of all races, creeds, personal habits, practices or anything else that defines and divides us these days — come closer to creating the “more perfect Union” envisioned in the U.S. Constitution.

Most Americans get that. Surely, most of the people I represent in the 33rd Senatorial District understand that America, for all its faults, is far more-free, more-fair and more-equitable than any other country on the planet.

So, while the national media stirs discord, we choose to celebrate our unity. We honor our flag and the founders who raised a democratic nation out of tyranny. We respect our military and thank those who sacrifice and serve. July Fourth is more than a day off work and an excuse to shoot fireworks. It is an annual reminder of what this nation stands for.

I’m proud to be an American and I’m proud of my country. I’m proud to have worn the uniform of my nation’s Armed Forces. I’m proud to serve my fellow citizens in the Legislature. My heart swells as I see our flag fly. I don’t believe I’m alone in my views, certainly not among my neighbors. The spirit of America runs deep in the Ozarks.  We still turn out for parades. We gather at county fairs, community dinners and festivals and we embrace one another, knowing that the ties that bind are much stronger than the forces that would pull us apart.

In defending the abolition of slavery, Abraham Lincoln called America the “last, best hope of Earth.” He said that our choices and actions would either “nobly save, or meanly lose” what our Founders had begun. It seems we are at a point of decision again.

We have so much to be thankful for. Let’s get past the division and strife and join together to continue what we started in 1776. 

It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2019, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

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