I’m always at a bit of a loss as to what to say on this big patriotic occasion. I’m as “American” in background, outlook, and life-experiences as anyone you’d meet. I belong to a distinctly American religious community, born on the Kentucky frontier long after Independence. I’m probably most at home among rednecks and African-Americans, whose cuisine and music I also tend to prefer. I’ve never lived anywhere else, or had any romantic idea that life was superior elsewhere. To my shame, and despite dabbling in many, I speak no languages other than English with any fluidity. I am passionate about college football, and God help me, still find soccer boring.
But like a lot of progressives, I’m made a bit uncomfortable by displays of super-patriotism, because so many of our national symbols and traditions have been bent to divisive and destructive causes. Most recently, thanks to the influence of a movement that is self-saturated in the regalia and rhetoric of the American Revolution, we have seen the “Spirit of ’76” incessantly deployed to suggest that roughly half of Americans are evil looters, and that indeed America has been ever-more-systematically betraying its heritage since the 1930s, or longer.
A casual look around the internet for big July 4 statements turned up a plethora of angry expressions of America-hatred–invariably from the super-patriot Right. Read the following exerpts from a piece at Forbes by Bill Frezza, and tell me if you think this man actually loves America:
Why do we still celebrate Independence Day? Is it a lingering habit, a mindless bit of nostalgia, a time to indulge in fireworks and barbecues, devoid of any deeper meaning? Can anyone honestly argue that our nation still honors the values, or practices the principles, for which our Founders fought?
Today, most Americans have been trained to be embarrassed by the “extremist” individualist ethos that made the protection of liberty the primary purpose of government. They have been taught to apologize for the shortcomings of the “rich white men” who led the revolution. A majority of Americans now subscribe to an expansive view of government as both great provider and beneficent leveler. Its primary purpose is to redress unequal or unhappy outcomes, regardless of their source, through wealth redistribution on a scale so vast that it mocks the concept “private property….”
Little by little, the home of the brave and the land of the free has become a nation of rent-seeking dependents clamoring for their share of state largess. Even before the latest entitlement blowout called Obamacare, we crossed the line where more than half of Americans receive some kind of assistance from the government every month, paid for by the fewer than half that still pay income taxes. As we move into the future and the number of dependents grows while the taxpayer pool shrinks, we call the result social justice rather than its old name: theft….
If we were still a nation capable of shame with enough intellectual integrity to call things as they are, if we hadn’t debauched our language as badly as our currency, if we had the courage to look in the mirror and see how woefully we have squandered our Founders’ legacy, this Fourth of July would be a day not of celebration but of atonement.
Interesting that you never see self-styled patriots read something like this and say: “Hey, love it or leave it, ungrateful jerk!” or echo Merle Haggard’s taunt: “You love our milk and honey, but preach about some other way of living/If you’re running down my country, hoss, you’re walking on the fighting side of me.”
Maybe progressives make a mistake in not calling out people like Frezza whose horror at having to share this country with the likes of me and you makes him by any standard un-patriotic, in the grips of a global ideology that is no more essentially “American” than fascism was essentially “Italian.”
I’m perfectly happy on this and any other day devoted to communal, civic celebrations to put aside differences and tip my hat (or a beer) to neighbors I know don’t agree with me on much of anything that makes up the daily bread of politics. But I’m no longer going to quietly accept lectures on patriotism from people who hate my country because they don’t rule it and my vote is equal to theirs.