Sometimes, it's hard to explain America. Here are some hints.
Argue about whether America is Great, Never Stopped Being Great, Is on the Way to Becoming Great (Again) or any other combination thereof.
Seriously. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
Finished? Regardless of where you ended up, though, some things simply Make America Greater than Most no matter the circumstances.
There are unquestionably more, but here are 10:
Corvettes: For a moment, let’s forget about their lack of practicality. Since 1953, Chevrolet has been selling these brutes to car enthusiasts, retirees, golf pros, astronauts and white-belt wearing sales managers by the trainloads — 1.56 million, in fact. It’s hard to find a better expression of a low-supply, high-demand piece of American individualism.
We the (Regular) People: If you’ve ever complained about the quality of brie, skip to Number 3. Otherwise, thank you for forming the fabric of America, even if some of you insist on using it to make jean shorts. Somehow, you manage to make our country work as one. Seattlers, Miamians and everyone in between are vastly different, but you show up, dive in, work hard, have fun and make this country an equation that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Yosemite National Park: Go see it. Afterward, no photo will ever accurately capture it. Morning, noon, afternoon, sunset, it’s like a different place each time, even from the same vantage point.
Elections: Local, state, federal. Condos, Little Leagues, student governments. One of the first things we all learn in America is how elections work. Whoever or whatever gets the most votes wins (usually). You’ll notice when kids are picking a class president, they don’t worry about runoffs or plurality vs. majority. They just add up the totals and go from there. Smart.
Supermarkets: Creators of this new way to shop in the 1930s changed the way we thought about basic staples and broadened the possibilities. Part store, part showroom, supermarkets soon not only served us but also became essential elements for the success of suburbia’s development.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: Hub-and-spoke airline operations aren’t unique to Atlanta, but few do it better. Five runways, one of which was built over an existing highway —1.4 million travelers to Orlando alone in 2017 — and 104 million travelers total. It’s a perfect demonstration of American freedom — the ability to pretty much go from anywhere to anywhere with a simple financial transaction and a little patience.
Hot dogs: Plain or loaded beyond recognition, the hot dog is another example of something we didn’t invent but made quintessentially us. Hand-held, portable, vastly customizable, it’s a touchstone. And don’t even try to say you’ve never had one.
Fireworks: What can you say about a nation that trusts its citizens with rocket-propelled explosives? What can you say about a state that erects all sorts of arcane rules about fireworks’ use, then allows superstores to sell them by the shopping cart with a simple signed acknowledgement that they are only allowed for farm or railroad uses. Ah, America.
Football: Like supermarkets, the interstate highway system and the internet, football has changed how we live. Friday nights, Saturdays, Sundays, Monday nights and, increasingly, Thursdays, will never be the same. TV and the NFL had a lot to do with it, but all levels of the game have seeped into mainstream America. It’s part of our culture and our everyday language.
Opinions: No kidding, this one might be The One. Without opinions, coupled with the ability to express them, we simply wouldn’t be America. Elections wouldn’t be the same. Facebook would go the way of Netscape Navigator. So don’t let anyone tell you to keep your opinions to yourself. That’s just not the way things work around here.
Eric Garwood is managing editor of the Sarasota Observer and Longboat Observer.