Tomorrow is the 4th of July, Independence Day in the United States. Tomorrow we Americans celebrate the birth of our nation with parades, picnics, and fireworks. It’s the biggest holiday in the US after Christmas.
I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not actually that patriotic. When people wave the star-spangled banner I stand up and sing, but I don’t get goose-bumps, I don’t swell with pride, nor do I feel a special thrill of superiority like so many other Americans. Don’t get me wrong, I like my country just fine. It drives me nuts just as often as it does something amazing. But it’s fine as far as countries go.
Does that mean I’m devoid of loyalties? Absolutely not! Let me tell you what I love, the place that makes me swell with pride, the place that I am fiercely loyal to and that I am happy to be a part of.
That’s right. I might not be particularly patriotic, but I am definitely statriotic.
Because, folks, Pennsylvania is awesome. Pennsylvania was not only one of the original 13 colonies, it was the only colony that was specifically founded on the principle of religious tolerance. New England was strictly Protestant, Maryland was fiercely Catholic, and the Southern states were … filled with people who were out to make a buck growing tobacco, actually. But Pennsylvania? People came here because the state offered a safe haven for people of all religions. That’s why the Quakers, the Moravians, and the Anabaptists (Amish & Mennonites) came here.
The treaty between William Penn and the native tribes of Pennsylvania was one of the only treaties never to be broken. Maybe the only one, I can’t remember. The natives of Pennsylvania had a far better relationship with the settlers in this state than just about anywhere else in the colonies.
Philadelphia was one of the earliest and most prosperous cities in the New World. It was founded in 1658 by William Penn and by 1750 was the largest and busiest port in the colonies. It had a thriving colonial culture and was the home to science and industry. And yep, the Founding Fathers met here during the Revolution to draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Everyone who was anyone in the era of American Independence, the thing we celebrate tomorrow, congregated in Philly. And Pennsylvania was the second state. (Wily old Delaware slipped in their first, dammit)
But it’s not just the rich history of the state that I love so much. (Gettysburg, the decisive battle of the Civil War? We got that too) Pennsylvania is an amazingly beautiful state. The name means “Penn’s Woods”, and boy do we have a lot of trees! 59% of the state of Pennsylvania is forest, and 69% of that is privately owned land. We’ve also got a lovely stretch of the Appalachian mountains running right through the middle of the state. Pennsylvania also has a huge amount of farmland, much of that devoted to dairy.
Yep, we’ve got trees and we’ve also got cows. We also have a lot of coal in the western part of the state. Plus there is enough natural gas contained in Pennsylvania shale to end our dependence on foreign oil…. Except that with that comes the whole controversy over fracking, which I have extremely mixed feelings about.
Aside from all of the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, forest, and mountains, we’ve got two major cities, one at either end. And there’s nothing more fun than the endless rivalry between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Frankly, we hate each other. But we hate each other the way that siblings hate each other. In fact, the whole reason why the capitol of Pennsylvania is in Harrisburg is because Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were constantly fighting over who should be the capitol, so of course they stuck it right in the middle, in a region fondly known as “Pennsyl-tucky”.Yep, as you might guess from that name, Pennsylvania encompasses a wide range of cultures and opinions. Everything from the sophistication of the big cities to the simple rural life of the farm. We’ve even got the extra simple culture of the Amish represented in vast numbers in Lancaster County. Politically Pennsylvania is considered a “swing-state”, because the diversity of its citizens covers the entire political spectrum and you never know which way an election is going to go. Frankly, I love that.
A couple of items that you might know are manufactured in Pennsylvania: Crayola crayons, the majority of the country’s mushrooms, Slinky, Heinz ketchup, Zippo lighters, Herr’s chips and pretzels, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and, of course, Hershey’s chocolate.
Pennsylvania is the 33rd biggest state in terms of territory, but it is the 6th most populous and the 9th most densely populated. It has one of the widest ranges of racial diversity and religious diversity in the United States. I think you can sense a theme here: diversity. That’s another reason why I love it. Also, we have the 6th largest economy in the United States, and if Pennsylvania were its own country we would be the 18th largest economy in the world.
Hey! That’s a good idea! Pennsylvania should be its own country! I would support that. We are certainly capable of being our own country if we wanted to.
So yes, tomorrow as we celebrate the birth of our nation, I will celebrate the fabulous state of Pennsylvania, my home.