Around this time of year I sometimes get a little uncomfortable about the way some people talk about our country. Don't get me wrong: I am happy that I was born in and am a citizen of the United States. I would like to express my feelings about America and the countries of the world. I think I'll do it as a list.
1. America is a wonderful country, but it's not perfect.
I know that the United States is a unique place. Its government setup allowed for religious freedom at a crucial time in the world's history and paved the way for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a very important thing. But, like all countries, we have social problems. Although our Constitution is established by God (D&C 101:80) it is not the perfect form of government, as I understand it. According to my reading of the Book of Mormon, the best form of government is to have a righteous king (cf. Mosiah 29:13), but since it cannot always be guaranteed that kings are righteous, a republic such as the one we have is a relatively good alternate. It bothers me when people say such things as, "If you don't like America move somewhere else," or something like that. It seems to me that the very freedom of speech that is established in our Constitution allows people the right to speak up about things they don't like and make changes in our system for the better.
2. Other countries are good too.
The United States of America is not the only country in the world where people enjoy religious freedom, freedom of speech, and other important protections. These are available in many places in the world. I have spent some serious time in Canada, the Czech Republic, and Mexico, as well as traveling in other countries, and I have never found impediments to my chosen lifestyle. While governmental policies vary from country to country, there are many places in the world where people enjoy freedom.
3. The United States of America does not exclusively contain Zion or the promised land.
The Book of Mormon also teaches that the American continent is a special place. It was a promised land for the Nephite people who left Jerusalem 600 years before Christ and crossed the sea, led by God. It is also the future location of Zion, the New Jerusalem. But the United States of America is not the only nation that participates in these important blessings. After all, the USA was not to be established for hundreds of years after the Book of Mormon took place. It seems to me that the promises extend to all the people and land of the Americas, not just U.S. territory. While the center place of Zion will be located in the area currently known as the United States, Zion is located anywhere her stakes are established. At this time there are stakes of Zion all over the world.
4. Borders are a fluid concept.
When I lived in Canada, I spent several months in Fort Frances, Ontario. Fort Frances is on one side of the border and International Falls, Minnesota, is on the other side. The border between the two countries follows the Rainy River which flows through that area. People from both sides of the border cross freely. For example, people on the Canadian side of the border would often drive over to the American side to get better gas prices. Many Americans would be found living on the Canadian side as well. If I looked out the back window of my apartment, I could see the other side of the river, but if I called the missionaries in that town, it would be an international telephone call. Living in a border town helped me to see how fluid and, in a way, unreal borders between countries are. I once saw a television show about a woman who lives in Mexico. In order to support her children, she crosses the border illegally into the United States every night to sell cigarettes she brings with her. Then she crosses back to Mexico to help her children get off to school in the morning. Obviously, for this woman, the border is not a big obstacle to her way of life. While I don't support illegal actions, I don't see borders as that important either.
It seems to me that the United States is built on a heritage of immigration and accepting people of many different origins, beliefs, and backgrounds. I wonder sometimes as we sing patriotic hymns in church, for example, whether there are people in the congregation who feel unwelcome because they are not from the United States of America. Perhaps such people feel the way I do when I sing "O Canada": I sincerely love and respect the country, and enjoyed living there. I guess I don't feel that you have to feel that your place is better than other places to be patriotic. It should be okay to like more than one country, right?
Addendum: The Wikipedia article on "O Canada" is awesome! I highly recommend that you listen to the recordings at the bottom.