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For all its warts, America really is great

My family has been at the forefront of our nation's history since the beginning.

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  • | 8:15 a.m. June 28, 2017
My grandfather, Burton E. Carson I, served with Gen. John Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. During World War II, my grandfather served on the homefront as part of Civil Defense.
My grandfather, Burton E. Carson I, served with Gen. John Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. During World War II, my grandfather served on the homefront as part of Civil Defense.
  • Sarasota
  • Opinion
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I am an American.

One of my forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

As a descendant of John Adams, I giggle a bit every July 4 recalling that he famously missed the date on which we would mark the occasion.

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail.

Yes, I am an American.

My great-great grandfathers fought in the American Civil War — both for the South and the North. It’s a history shared by many families and one that my family treasures. On my mother’s side of the family, we stand with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. On my father’s side, it’s all about the Grand Army of the Republic.

I am an American.

My father’s father served with Gen. John Pershing and the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I in France. He was at the Palace of Versailles when the treaty ending “The War to end all wars” was signed. He didn’t talk about his military experiences much, but the hell he lived through — the gas attacks, the trench warfare — showed on his face and echoed in his voice. During World War II, my mother’s father served in the Army at a prisoner of war camp in Texas. My father’s father was a Civil Defense block captain. I have the armband he wore while on duty, and I treasure it.

I am an American.

My father fought in World War II, China, Korea and Vietnam and all the political hot spots in between. I vividly recall in October 1962 that my father was home from a deployment. The striking part of that was he took me and my youngest brother out of school for a day, and we went to Folly Beach outside of Charleston, S.C. While my brother and I played in the sand, Dad sat with large binoculars and a notepad scanning the eastern horizon. It was years later that he told me what he was doing — charting Russian ships heading to Cuba. It was the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I am an American.

As a child, I watched as Martin Luther King Jr. led throngs of people through the streets of Charleston, S.C., in 1967 in his quest for equal rights for African-Americans. I was amazed by his poise in the face of such brutal hatred.

I am an American.

A few years later, while my family lived in Mississippi, we were roused in the middle of the night by law enforcement after someone pledged to blow up our home because my parents, publishers of the local newspaper, stood on the side of racial equality. It wouldn’t be the last time I would face trouble because of something written in a newspaper.

I am an American.

When I began my journalism career, the Ku Klux Klan was still alive and active in South Mississippi. They didn’t much care for my “outsider” stand and took it upon themselves to smash the plate glass window of my office not once, not twice, but three times. Apparently I offended the Klan by publishing photos of them unmasking themselves following a demonstration in the tiny town of Lumberton. I didn’t give up, but they ultimately did.

I am an American.

For many years I hid an important part of my identity because, in Mississippi at least, it just wasn’t talked about — not in polite company. It was 2000 when I mustered the courage to say, “Yes, I am a gay American” and not be afraid of the consequences.

I am an American.

In the 241 years since John Adams and the rest of the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, we have survived our struggles as a country and thwarted our attacks on ourselves. We are living in strange yet wonderful times, and we will, ultimately, continue as a country.

And that’s why I’m proud I am an American.