Happy Fourth of July! Today we celebrate our nation’s independence from England, and while our country today may not be anything like what the founding fathers expected, it’s still the best place in the world to live. Everyone born in America, no matter what your station in life, is truly blessed.

Think about it: born on another country, but at the same socio-economic level, would you fare so well? In the majority of the world, I think not. Our system is far from perfect, but we don’t have sprawling slum cities, or refugee camps, or drug cartels ruling the countryside. We haven’t suffered through daily rocket attacks, our children can walk to school without fear of land mines, and clean water is easily accessible. We can choose what faith to believe in, or not to believe anything at all.

Is America perfect? By all means, no. But no place ever could be. There are things that could be better, changes that need to be made. But overall, you have to admit, America is a pretty great place to live. And what better time to be alive than now? The future is closer than ever. Before we know it we’ll have our flying cars and laser guns (won’t traffic be fun then?).

So today, July 4, 2014, I say Happy Birthday America! Also, I declare my own independence from the tyranny of diet soda. No longer will it dominate my beverage choices, at home or out about town. No longer will I suffer from the bloating that comes from the over consumption of that sweet man-made nectar of the gods. No longer will my father have to send me email forwards of the health risks linked to artificial sweeteners and food color additives. I will learn to drink coffee, and there’s always iced tea, lightly sweetened, of course. And a nice glass of cold water isn’t so bad on a hot summer afternoon.

In fact, I think I’ll have a glass right now, and raise it in a toast to this great land of ours.