I remember the feeling I had whenever I travelled abroad and returned home to the United States in decades past. I remember in particular, one trip to Europe to present a paper at the University of Jena in what used to be East Germany. After the conference, I took the train up through Germany and Scandinavia to Stockholm, where I caught a boat to Turku, Finland, and visited friends in Helsinki.
After this long trip, I returned home to the United States, flying into JFK in New York. Going through customs took some time. The last officer I met was an African American man who stamped my passport, flashed me a smile, and said, "Welcome home!" I'll never forget the feeling, a happy feeling of solidarity and security in being home in the United States again. This, despite the fact that the first twenty years of my life were lived outside the United States.
Then I remembered listening to Teresa Tomio on the Catholic radio station during my morning drive the other day, and something she said stuck with me. She said that on recent trips abroad, she noticed how different she felt when returning to the United States -- a certain "heaviness" and unshakable burden of concern that she often felt upon her arrival back in the United States.
Many of us, I think, know all-too-well what she means, sad-to-say. This is no longer the country that our parents knew when they were growing up, or even the country we knew when we were growing up -- before Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) Roe v. Wade (1973), or Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), or the recent Supreme Court Ruling striking down DOMA (2013).
It was, in retrospect, a time of comparative innocence, a time of relative simplicity, in many respects. Now we have Obamacare, same-sex "marriages," and a government few people trust. What there seems little doubt about, however, is that the majority of people are now ready to turn John F. Kennedy's dictum on its head and say: "Ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you." We have become a nation of takers.
So, perhaps it seems a bit cynical (and maybe it is); but Happy Dependence Day! (... Or not so happy, as the case may be ...)