I’ve been getting all the regular emails that I expect this time of year. It makes me sad that a form of blind nationalism has seemingly replaced authentic American patriotism.
“Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. … The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” ~ George Orwell
We are surrounded by a significant amount of ignorance and confusion about what the founding values really are, about how and why religion benefits from the separation of church and state, about integrity versus fear/hate, about whether “real Americans” only include the immigrants from a couple of waves of history – or all of them, about whether it is American to interfere with someone’s pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, about whether or not inalienable human rights actually apply to all humans – or just to some of the more wealthy Americans. We actually sit around and argue about whether someone even has the right to be who they are! These are issues that arise over and over and over again. Want to be a real American? Want to be a real patriot? Then get a spine! Stand up for the things that have made us worthy of admiration. Live in integrity, be courageous in the face of truth, don’t be fearful or avoidant in acknowledging and bettering whatever is failing to live up to our values. American values.
Americans should always say “Independence Day” rather than euphemizing with “the 4th.” When I was young, everyone seemed to say “Independence Day” a lot more than they do now. Why is that? The meaning of Independence Day for me is that just as we achieved independence (moving from an imperial colony into a fledgling country that rejected state religion, taxation without representation, and an uncompromising class structure, and championed the virtues of equality and liberty and ethical justice) we each should remember to reinstill an informed sense of those standards in thinking and acting and to continuing to uphold those values in any way that we can.
The Constitution as a founding document was meant to give us the kind of government that is fair and that allows freedom and flexibility to adjust to new realities. It created the moving parts to evolve and to better ourselves and our ethical insights, with inalienable rights for every American – and every human. A government of, by and for the people built the middle class, made us a world power, and made us strong and admirable. Without those core values, we can’t compete at the same level in any sense.
Change is part of what the Constitution allows, describes… and makes possible! We don’t need to re-animate the limited views of the past, only to salvage and rearticulate our core strengths as Americans. This is what we are losing, and all the “protective” killing in the world cannot protect us from the loss of understanding from within.
That means that whether or not you’re a soldier, you’re not off the hook. It’s not enough to be grateful for sacrifices made to establish and maintain the core principles of the USA. As Americans, we have a higher standard than flag waving and jingoism. The flag, the Bible, the Constitution – when will the neocon chickenhawks and war profiteers and the pseudo-Christian right cease this manipulation of the masses with what can only be called idol worship? Literalists are always mistaking the symbol for a reality, and it’s a failure of education. Americans seem to have less of a sense of history than most other nations, and it hurts us in this battle.
“The very existence of the state demands that there be some privileged class vitally interested in maintaining that existence. And it is precisely the group interests of that class that are called patriotism.” ~ Mikhail Bakunin, Russian anarchist
The fringe right has been moved into the center, and this is very troubling for a number of reasons. Among the long list of problems is that the current rightwing is not conservative in any recognizable way, and it uses the worship of a static Constitution to reintroduce items that we have – for the most part -culturally surpassed. After well over 200 years, we’re regressing to some of the beliefs and prejudices that the Constitution itself was meant to transcend! Have we learned nothing?
Propaganda and political mind games seem to appeal to the worst part of so many Americans, but there are always those who will stand up and speak truth to power – no matter where the power is located. It helps nothing to squabble amongst the “small people” over cultural preferences when we are all being ripped off – and our very land and future stolen. Don’t let fear and hate and the hysterical lynchmob mentality take over our country, lest we become that which we should stand against.
We are in danger of losing the sense of who we are as a people – a people composed of many peoples, many tribes and ethnicities, many classes, many religions but who share the values of liberty and freedom and justice for all. If we lose that, we are America no longer.
Will you be a *real* American?
P.S. Don’t miss Jolly Roger’s wonderful explication of the difference between nationalism and patriotism.