Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Pride, Shame, and Patriotism

We all love our country, but we go about it very differently. I've heard conservatives argue that liberals have a "blame America first" mentality, but I've always believed the more accurate analogy was parent-child love vs. child-parent love. Conservatives love America the way a child loves a parent, naively believing their parent country can do no wrong and ought not ever be questioned. Liberals love America the way a parent loves a child, honestly critiquing, owning up to its mistakes, and pushing it to be its best by abandoning the illusion that it's already perfect as is. (Of course, this analogy doesn't take shitty, coddling, helicopter parenting into account...)

I've felt deep pride in my country. I never took it for granted that there would be an African-American President in my lifetime. I never took it for granted that my husband and I could be legally married, or would become homeowners in part because of a smart government tax credit. When I was almost legally blind as a teenager and too self-conscious for glasses, I saved up for Lasik surgery and basically bought eyes. I'm not always capitalism's biggest cheerleader, but I was amazed that this was an option for me. On 9/11 in my native North Jersey, the blood bank in Parsippany was packed, and we even had a surplus of donations for a while there. Thanks to hard work, help, and good luck, my family is finally getting ahead a little.

I've felt shame too. We just elected an emotional toddler who appeals to the worst of our characteristics (greed, hate, and fear). As evidence, I cite the entirety of his words and deeds. The fact that so many of my countrymen failed to recoil in horror at him was another point of shame. There are other things we ought not be proud of. On 9/11, I learned they don't take gay blood and that's really fucking stupid. I have been ashamed and am still ashamed that so many knuckle-dragging Congressmen and Senators don't have any shame talking publicly about how fossils are the devil's tools in 20-fucking-17. I've seen us go to war for to profit the people least in need of profit. I'm terrified we'll do it again, sacrificing freedom for safety while receiving (and deserving) neither.

I have hope in the future in part because I work with young people. There are selfish millennials who walk around talking about "branding" and "optics" and "triggers" and "micro-aggressions" and yes, I too would gladly insert these kids slowly into a wheat thresher. But I see far more of the other kind, idealistic in a surprisingly grounded way, altruistic, and optimistic despite the mess we're handing them.

Overall, I think we are still good people. We're fat and we pollute, but we're still fighting and protesting and advocating for what we believe. We tend to correct our government when it swings too far in any direction. I have to believe it's too soon for a failing president to use a fake war to inspire loyalty again (see the erased war of 2003-?). We're loud and sometimes dumb and we really need to stop this sexual fixation on firearms we seem to have, but we're also readers and dreamers and advocates for justice. The horrors on our news feeds receive attention because of their rarity. We have to remember that acts of kindness don't get their fair share of attention not because they don't happen anymore, but because they are still somehow commonplace. We can be better, and should always strive to be, but we are still, by and large, a good country.

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