Oh America, how do I love thee?

How do I love thee even when for the last few months I haven’t always liked you?

Well, I love you for what you were, how you became nearly all you could be with the help of – and yes, in some cases, in spite of – your people.

And I love you for your promise. It’s a promise that may struggle but it will not stray from course.

Will it? I mean, bottom line, this is the land of the free and the home of the brave, isn’t it? This is the land of opportunity, still, in a way. No one’s trying to change that, are they?

I know, I know. From my vantage point it appears that whole “Make America great again” has done more to spawn hate, than great. But, well, in my case, I’ve tried to be a better American. I’m more conscious that my definition of greatness requires me to do my responsibility. Carry my load. Help when I can, not condemn when I can’t.

I’ve made myself accept not everyone’s story resembles mine. There are many who are less fortunate, many more who have more material wealth. Some criticize my acceptance as being “too liberal,” and therefore condemn me as being unworthy of this whole “great again” participation effort. Unworthy of what, I’m not exactly sure, but the label stings. I think it misrepresents who I am and what I believe.

See, I know that the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is intended for all citizens of these United States. I qualify several generations over as a natural-born citizen. But I grew up within spitting distance of the Mexican border, and I try to imagine, what if by random selection my ancestors were Mexican-born. What if my citizenship were in question, would I not still want the best of opportunities for my children and grandchildren? Why shouldn’t I?

What if I had skills that would make me a good worker in these United States? Does it not make sense to make a bridge, not build a wall? Why does a border have to be the decision-breaker for where our humanity begins and ends?

It seems to me it would be much easier to find a way than build a barrier.

So much I see seems to be skewed. We claim to be “pro-life” but we’re against healthcare and education for the most fragile of our people. We pronounce less government, but pass laws for where people can go to the bathroom and take public tax money to pay for private schools for the privileged.

And this far in, I’ll add: We shout in our loudest voices we are a Christian nation; bluster about prayer in schools and keeping “in God we trust” on our bills and coins; but we hate and condemn “the least of these.”

A little something I learned through the experience of raising three boys, is that in life situations it is human nature to go to the lowest common denominator. Frankly, I see that as a problem for this great nation. Our lowest common denominator seems to be sinking lower. Not because of “liberals” like me or “conservatives” like those who think I’m a liberal, but because we’re tugging too hard in opposite directions without considering the greater good.

I subscribe to the theory that the left wing and right wing belong to the same bird. It behooves all of us to learn to fly and fly high.

America I love you because I’ve seen you at your best, and as it always seems to be in life, this nation’s best comes shining through in the very worst of times. We unite in tragedy, it seems. Couldn’t we unite in better times with higher expectations?

I’ve seen your mountains, prairies, cities and success. Those spectacular settings have made my heart swell with pride. I’ve heard your music, feasted at your great-life banquets. I know your victories and I’ve known of our failures. I love your resilience. I love your purpose and plan. I love the least of us and the best of us. I love you because you are the format and setting I have to be a better me and all of us to be a greater country.

On this day like every day, I will celebrate our independence, wave my flag and watch our fireworks, and I will continue to pray. God bless America, my home, sweet home.

Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at ccfulton2002@yahoo.com.