Thursday, July 2, 2015


The Fourth of July is creeping up on us again.  It’s always an uncomfortable time for me, because I am so allergic to the concepts of patriotism, nationalism, flag-worship and glorification of the military that move to the front and center of our national consciousness on that day.  In recent years…oh, since the onset of the Bush Administration, I’d say…I have taken particular exception to crows of “I’m PROUD to be an American!!!”, and their accompanying  tacit accusations that you are a Communist, Socialist, Nazi, traitor, heathen or demon if you disagree.

Why should I be any more proud to be an American than I am of having brown hair, brown eyes, long legs or pleasant features?  I may be fortunate to be beautiful, or white, or of European heritage, or American-born. But these are happy accidents of birth.  How can I be proud of things I did nothing to achieve?  Naturalized American citizens may be proud to be Americans.  They wanted it.  They worked for it.  They achieved it.  But those of us who were born here?  Not so much. 

So the whole idea of being “proud to be an American” is, to me, semantically erroneous.   The correct statement might be:  “I’m proud of America.”  Which I would be happy to declare from the highest rooftop.

If it were true.

That being more the source of my peevishness at the concept than my grammatical objection to the way it’s expressed.

For weeks, my mind has been grumbling over the seeds of an Independence Day rant, one that enumerated all of the very obvious reasons why I am NOT, currently, proud of my home country; and why no one else should be, either.  A Do-Nothing Congress.  The 2016 GOP Presidential Clown Show.  Shamelessly expanding income inequality.  Ferguson.  Baltimore.  Open-carry fanatics toting AR15’s around on the streets.  A black child shot to death for possession of a toy gun.  A neo-Nazi white kid treated to Burger King after his arrest for murdering nine black people in cold blood. 

Should we be proud of all that?  Good god, it’s all I can do not to pack my bags and leave.  But what country would have us?  Who wants to start taking in streams of disgusted, disappointed, disaffected refugees from the American moral wasteland?  We must be something akin to human toxic waste.  Nope.  We’re stuck here, god have mercy on our souls.

So there’s that…but I hadn’t quite got round to articulating all that when last week happened.

When news out of the current Supreme Court session began blowing across this wasted land like a fresh breeze.

When the highest court in the land proved its mettle and rose up to the sacred duty entrusted to it by the framers of the Constitution--that document of which so many in this country are so woefully ignorant; that sacred manual for democracy which the charlatans would cherry-pick like the bible, billboarding the parts that serve their purposes, sweeping under the carpet the parts that do not.

It’s times like this that we get a sense of the great, scholarly wisdom of our Founding Fathers; that we understand the genius of the three branches of government, of the concept of checks and balances, of the delicate tightrope walk of ensuring that no one division of the federal government has more power than the other two.  What a monumental task, for these men to erect the framework of a government the like of which the world had never seen.  What insight they had to call upon, what comprehension of the strengths and the weaknesses of human nature.  What understanding they possessed of the lure and danger of political power, and yet, of the capacity for human cooperation and accomplishment.

This group of learned 18th-century political zealots hammered together a government that still works, in spite of all the ways we have tried to sabotage it over the years.  This time around, the Supreme Court came to the rescue, reinforcing the lines that an out-of-control political movement may not cross.  We may not protect bigotry and moral decay under the mantle of “states rights.”  We may not deny civil rights to any group just because we don’t like them, or we don’t agree with them, or they are not like us.  It was not okay back in 1954 under Brown v Board of Education.  And it is not okay now. 

In this upside down, contentious country, this heaving mass of conflicting theories, where right is wrong and lies are truth, and we are all daily invited to choose our own realities, and where the hapless Legislative Branch of our federal government has exploited every human foible and dragged us to the brink of economic and moral ruin, the Supreme Court stood up among the chaos and quietly reaffirmed that upon which our country was founded:  That all Americans are created equal, and the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were established for all Americans. 

Should we be proud of all that?

You’re damned right we should.   


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