After a long and emotional election season, I need to cling to something positive. I feel as if I've been riding on a political river of wild rapids, sometimes being tossed over into the chilly water. And the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in the wee hours of Wednesday morning did little to help with that feeling. Thankfully, I've the camaraderie of smart and funny friends serving as the life jacket that kept me afloat throughout this entire election cycle. Even though I'm still a little shaken up, I'm choosing to focus on the things that are still great about America that I'll make sure my kid knows, because I want him to learn how to persevere. And it's a lesson I'll only grow stronger in by sharing these things with my child.
I want my son to understand that even one person has the power to do great things. Good deeds, valiant efforts, and change-making happens on a sliding scale, with no attempt too small. I want him to start understanding that one of the best ways to boost your mood and lift your spirits is to gain perspective. Although our culture is far from perfect, with plenty of ugly baggage to sort out, when you take a close look, there is a ton of positive stuff to vibe on.
So before you let the gloom take over, get pumped up about these 21 things that are still great about America, and you can enjoy as a citizen.
1. Freedom Of Speech
No matter the circumstances, we still have the freedom to speak our minds and express our feelings. As the website for the American Civil Liberties Union reminded us, “Freedom of expression is the matrix, the indispensable condition, of nearly every other form of freedom," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo said in Palko v. Connecticut.
2. 100 Years Of National Parks Service
You don't have to be Leslie Knope to get excited about National Parks. This year, the National Parks Services celebrated 100 years of preserving and spreading the love of our country's most beautiful open spaces.
Thank you, New York youth of the 1960s and 1970s, for inventing the awesomeness that is breakdancing, so we could all enjoy popping and locking for years to come.
4. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Since RBG has been rocking a seat on the Supreme Court since 1993, we can breath a sigh of relief knowing she has a hand in America's biggest decisions.
5. National Donut Day
Mmmm... donuts! Each year, the first Friday in June becomes more than just a day to say "TGIF!" to your coworkers. It becomes National Donut Day — a day to eat and celebrate fried dough and sugar until your heart's content (or your sugar high crashes).
6. Unemployment Rates Are Stable
The most recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the U.S. unemployment rate to be at 4.9 percent, with more people finding jobs in healthcare, professional and business services, and finance.
7. Ranch On Everything
Chicken fingers, pizza sticks, carrots, and — the original companion — salad are all made more delicious when topped with American's favorite condiment: ranch dressing.
8. Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal
The U.S. Supreme Court got this one right (even if it took too damn long). Finally, same-sex couples can make marriage official after putting a ring on it.
9. Free Refills
Done with that root beer and want another? Have at it. Free refills are a glorious American tradition that keep us hydrated one cup at a time.
10. Low Gas Prices
For the first time in years, you can get gas for less than $3 a gallon. And if kids don't get too excited about gas prices, just remind them that means more money for ice cream and Pokémon cards.
11. Broadway Shows
The Hamilton soundtrack will cheer up even the most disillusioned of us all. Add to that the ongoing magic of Broadway shows to be enjoyed year round, and there is no doubt America is still great.
12. Food Trucks
The culinary bar has been raised. Forget the days of mystery street meat soaking for hours in murky water, because you can now enjoy food trucks boasting gourmet ingredients and five-star quality cuisine anywhere, anytime.
13. Economic Growth
According to the website for Trading Economics, "The United States economy expanded an annualized 2.9 percent in the third quarter of 2016, more than 1.4 percent in the previous period and beating market expectations of a 2.5 percent rise."
14. Dr. Suess
Aren't you happy you get to live in a world where national treasure, Dr. Suess, gave you books like Green Eggs and Ham, and characters like The Grinch? It doesn't get much more amazing than that.
15. Independent Bookstores
There is nothing more comforting that being in a room filled with carefully selected books. As Travel and Leisure magazine pointed out, America has some of the best independent bookstores that will capture your heart and nourish your soul.
16. Three Amazing Coastlines
Whether you're a fan of the Pacific, Atlantic, or Gulf of Mexico, there's no denying the miles and miles of sandy nirvana on America's coasts. Everyone — no matter their age — should see the ocean at least once in their lifetime.
17. Roller Coasters
According to Roller Coaster Database, there are 743 roller coasters in the United States. Which means you have 743 reasons to throw your hands up in the air and scream at the top of your lungs (about a good thing).
Of our country's many great creations, MTV is among the elite. The inventor of the music video and reality television, MTV is responsible for changing the landscape of pop culture for the past 35 years.
19. "Weekend Update"
Not only does Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" put the most hilarious and revealing spin on current events, it has brought you some of the most memorable SNL characters of all time. From the unrehearsed songs of Garth and Kat to the ramblings of The Girl You Wish You Never Started a Conversation With, "Weekend Update" never disappoints.
Not only did the rhythmic Motown sound come out of America's heartland, you can visit the Motown Museum to celebrate "The sound that changed America."
Sure, Fall technically happens all over the world, but no one does it quite like America. Pumpkins, colorful foliage, and delicious pies for days are just a few of the ways the USA shows off how awesome it is at doing Fall better than any other country.