Happy Fourth of July, American and American-adjacent/resident friends! Happy Monday, everyone else!
Independence Day is a weird holiday for me. For the longest time, I associated it with hot car trips up the Pennsylvania, where we celebrated both it and my grandmother’s birthday.
She passed away ten years ago this past spring, so usually I consider the Fourth as a day to think about her. She was a fascinating, complex, sometimes difficult woman.
For a lot of other people, though, Independence Day is a huge holiday. The terrible traffic and sporadic pops of fireworks and gunfire around where I live proves it. The flag is…everywhere. I mean, everywhere. You can even walk on it: American flag flip-flops.
It should not surprise you all to know that I have a complicated relationship with my country. Coming of age in a highly nationalistic period can do that to you. It’s hard for me not to associate the word “patriot” with a kind of hyper-aggressive, wildly sensitive type who will hear no criticism of the Fatherland.
For some, to critique America is to fail in your patriotism.
That’s such a bizarre stance to take. When we think about our friends and our family, we think: “yes, I will stand by you.” But we also think: “If you start doing crazy, self-destructive shit, I’m going to tell you.” And, perhaps most importantly, “I understand you’re not perfect.”
It should be possible to be a patriot and to want the United States to be better. I don’t mean stronger, because our military is…well, impressive to say the least. I mean better. More compassionate. More accountable. Truer to the ideals we espouse but often do not embody.
To be a patriot is to love one’s country. But I think we have to love it honestly. And to love our neighbors and fellow citizens most of all, however different from us they might be. That’s hard sometimes–whoever you are, there’s someone you don’t like–but patriotism probably shouldn’t be easy. It should be complicated.
Are you a patriot?