11 Reasons to Love the USA On July 4th

July 4th signals both the beginning and the ending of summer for me. Don't know about you, but the summer just seems to fly after this holiday despite our best efforts to soak it all in. In addition to the celebrations of barbecues and fireworks, we're also celebrating the greatness of a document that declared the independence and sovereignty of our country and the individual rights we've come to accept as a result.

As a country, we still have work to do (equal pay for women, anyone?) but the good news is we have the freedom to live our personal agendas safely. We may join whatever groups, clubs, or political parties we so choose without fear of repercussion. Those on the fringes who threaten our safety or interfere with our rights just don't get that freedom is what America is all about.

Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the magnificent freedoms this beautiful and diverse country allows. And, sometimes, we need to take a moment to remind ourselves how truly lucky we are.

So, soak up the sun this weekend, but don't forget to bask in the exceptional freedoms we enjoy in the USA:

1. Freedom to love. Most Americans celebrated the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling this week. But even for those who didn't, it's important to recognize what this ruling represents. It represents a country that is open and accepting. A country that doesn't tell its' citizens whom to marry. A country that fights discrimination rather than promotes it. And those are things we can all celebrate.

2. Freedom to learn. Every citizen of this country is given the gift of education from kindergarten through high school. And, no matter who you are, how much money you have, or what disabilities you may struggle with, not one of us is turned away from this incredible opportunity. Want to go on to higher education? Opportunities abound there as well. We choose how far we want to take our education.

3. Freedom to excel. We have the right to have ambitions, to hope for more, to work toward bettering ourselves. True, we have a long way to go in ensuring sustainable living for all, but there aren't any laws in place that prevent us from pursuing our dreams. Carry on, dreamers! You never know where those dreams may take you.

4. Freedom to believe. Religious? Atheist? Agnostic? You choose. And no one will tell you to do otherwise. Next time you openly celebrate a holiday or walk into your place of worship, take a moment to appreciate this immeasurably beautiful right.

5. Freedom to travel. Want to explore the world? Great. Get your passport, pack your bags, and book your flight. Really. It's that simple. Having the freedom to leave the US and return at will may be something we take for granted and absolutely should not.

6. Freedom to speak up. Don't like your congresswoman? The president? The mayor of your town? You're free to make your feelings known. You won't be arrested or tortured for it. You won't be thrown into prison at the whim of a tyrannical government. Want to protest peacefully? All yours.

7. Freedom to videotape. Recently we've watched as the most unsettling incidents unfolded in real time thanks to witnesses who used their cell phones to record these travesties. And guess what? We have the right to do that (with some caveats). See something? Start rolling. As long as you're not violating someone else's privacy, you're within your rights. And you may be providing invaluable testimony as well.

8. Freedom to express ourselves sexually. Monogamy? Gay pride parade? Online porn? Open marriage? As long as it doesn't involve those who can't or don't legally consent, the field is endless in the ways we can comfortably and freely express our sexuality.

9. Freedom to procreate. You decide how many kids you want, not the government. Huge brood or none at all? Go forth and multiply as you see fit.

10. Freedom to vote. Eighteen or over? Sign up and submit your ballot. No one will stop you. No one will force your vote. No one can relieve you of this right. This is one of the greatest freedoms the US provides. We might not always get the government we want, but we're free to try.

11. Freedom to celebrate our freedoms. We're not a perfect nation nor do we claim to be. We have much work to do on many fronts. But we're also a country that has demonstrated a willingness to grow and evolve to the benefit of our citizens. So, despite our differences -- and because of them -- let's celebrate and appreciate our Day of Freedoms and this spectacular country we call home.