Friday, September 16, 2016

Patriotism on the Porch

(I wrote this over a month ago. Before Patriotism and the National Anthem made headline news. Somehow it seems even more relevant.)

Dear Patriot:

You are ruining patriotism for me.
Let me explain:

I have a romanticized version of patriotism in my head. It includes 4th of July parades, honoring vets, in quaint towns sitting on verandas with flag bunting all around.
Doesn't that sound dreamy?
I love flags waving from porches.
I love living in this country.
I love the Norman Rockwell ideals of families praying around tables, and celebrating life together.

And then.
Then I get uncomfortable. A presidential candidate's platform has been to make America great again. Again? Like when? Like when black people had to use the fountain that spewed hot water on a blazing hot day? (Because I have recently learned the "white" people fountains had cooled water. Did you know that? I didn't. I just thought they were separate.) When we had our own little Indian holocaust? When we treated a whole segment of humanity as animals because their skin was darker? When, pray tell, was America great? Was it post WWII when women were hushed away and the price of being a house wife was subservience and silence? When husbands handled the money, and a woman just silently accepted philandering? When "ugly" things were hidden away, and all that was celebrated was the white nuclear family? America has actually always been great, and simultaneously needed to improve. It can be both. It is both.

I yearn for a country that is willing to look honestly at where it has been and where it is going. I yearn for a people of humility. I yearn for the definition of patriot to mean someone whose love of country includes constructive criticism. I yearn for people who can take the long view. Who can logically follow their own desires all the way through their course, and admit when their own desires trample on the desires of others. Whose love of the Constitution is balanced by a love of people, all people. So, for now, my patriotism isn't romanticized. It's gritty. It includes being really uncomfortable on so many levels.

When everyone is welcome on the veranda, that is when America will be great again.

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