Because the right wing likes to play the patriotism card so often, liberals and progressives are constantly having to prove their loyalty to America, trying in vain to assure people that they really do love this country of ours. On this July Fourth, I’d like to state that honestly, when it comes down to it, I can’t say I do love America.
Oh, I don’t hate America, or wish any ill upon it, but America doesn’t hold any kind of special place in my heart. Should it? It’s purely an accident of fate that I was born here. Had I been born in, say, Finland it would be odd for me to declare my love for the United States. Cheering for the place you just happen to already be seems kind of stupid. The portion of land on the northern hemisphere of Earth between 25° north and 50° latitudes doesn’t have any particular hold on me.
We had an American flag flying in front of our house when we first moved here, but at some point someone stole it. We thought that was kind of an odd thing to do, but you know, if they needed a flag that bad, fine. We never got around to replacing it. I don’t particularly want to. I don’t worship the American flag, and while I’ve never burned or otherwise desecrated one, I don’t have any desire to exalt one either. A flag, in and of itself, is a piece of cloth, and no piece of cloth is overly dear to my heart.
What should be what endear America to me are its beliefs, its society, and its people. These days, though, how on Earth can I be proud of these things? This country was founded on the principles of freedom, tolerance, equality, respect, democracy, and liberty. And yet, a mere two hundred years later, these beliefs have been cast aside. We’ve given up freedom for false security, practically begging the government to keep us safe through non-stop surveillance and suspicion of its own people. A large portion of us (and certainly an influential one) have abandoned tolerance, demanding that all conform to their religion and way of life. Our society is hopelessly racist, sexist, and generally unkind to anyone who deviates from the perceived norm in any way. We’ve become self-absorbed, rude, greedy, wasteful, callous, arrogant bullies demanding everyone else cater to our whims. And as for democracy — the more elections that go by the harder it is to believe that, even if they are fair, they make a difference at all, since the deck has been so stacked in favor of a small portion of the country. In addition, the Age of Enlightenment that spawned our nation would shudder at the ignorance and superstition that has only seemed to increase.
We torture our prisoners who were captured in a war based on lies, where our soldiers kill innocent civilians. Our leader has put himself above the law, happily ignoring anything that stands in the way of the cabal of rogues who run things for their own benefit from behind him. Any dissent is met with shouts of treason on one side and yawns of apathy on the other. Scientific achievement is stunted by an anti-intellectual society that still embraces ridiculous mythology. We demand satisfaction from the rest of the world through threats of violence and economic blackmail. Entire countries act as our sweatshops to feed our insatiable desire for cheap garbage we don’t need. And if you happen to be black and poor and far from oil, feel free to rape and murder and hack each other apart with machetes; we can’t be bothered to care.
Why the hell should I be proud of this? What is there to be proud of? Exactly what am I supposed to be celebrating today? That we haven’t completely abandoned democracy and freedom yet? That we still at least go through the motions of elections every few years to decided which wealthy Christian white men will lead us? That, for the moment, we’re allowed to speak, assemble, worship, and print as we like? That we made it through another year without completely slipping into theocracy, fascism, or monarchy?
So no, America, I’m sorry. Happy birthday and all that, but I don’t love you. You’ve been coasting for quite some time now, and if you want me to respect you, you’re going to have to start doing a lot better than you’re doing. It’s your 230th birthday. Isn’t it time for you to start growing up?