The words came out of my mouth without thinking. I was at a Pride Fest in a large out-of-state city. It was a gloriously beautiful Sunday afternoon. My friends and I were seated on a blanket underneath some tall shade trees, eating a delicious lunch that had been lugged around the city all morning in a backpack by my friend. We had come just from the Pride parade.
As I looked around, I saw thousands of people.
There was no violence.
There was little visible presence of state authority.
There was no fear.
No one was telling anyone what was right or wrong.
No one was trying to tell others what or how to think.
There was no judgment.
There were many gay people around.
There were many straight people around.
There were old people.
There were children.
Diversity was everywhere.
Tolerance was everywhere.
Acceptance was everywhere.
Here, I thought, is the best of America. Here, the ideals of America are not being sung about, not being preached, not being lauded or paraded, worshipped and idealized. Here, the ideals of America are simply being lived.
Thus, I said to my friends, almost absent-mindedly: “This represents the best of America.” An America I can be proud of. An America I believe in. An America where ideals are not used as weapons by one group of people against another, but are respected as shared beliefs of which none are owners and all are stewards.